CULLOMPTON, United Kingdom — Farm Africa is a charity that aims to reduce poverty in eastern Africa. In order to do this, it helps farmers to “grow more, sell more and sell for more.” Not only are rural populations able to increase their incomes, but the local environment is also protected for future generations.
Sharing a Vision
Sir Michael Wood, a doctor and founder of AMREF Health Africa founded the charity in 1985, alongside David Campbell, an agriculturalist and specialist in African rural development. The initial reason for establishing Farm Africa was to respond to the famine in Ethiopia. The two founders had a shared vision for a “prosperous rural Africa” and they believed that the best way to do this was to develop small-scale agriculture in impoverished, rural communities. They identified food as the best medicine, with Sir Michael Wood saying that “I have concluded after a life’s work as a surgeon in Africa that food is the best medicine. I now want to start an initiative to tackle the problem in new ways.”
The charity has 200 staff operating across eastern Africa and in 2021, it reached more than 1 million people with its work. More than 60% of the sub-Saharan African population are smallholder farmers and the World Bank reported that growth in agriculture is “two to four times more effective in raising incomes” in comparison to other sectors, therefore, it is clear that a focus on farmers is vital in the ongoing battle against extreme poverty.
Farm Africa works in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo with different types of farmers in a range of environments. This article outlines just three of the on-the-ground work projects that the charity is currently working on in three different countries.
Producing and Marketing Forest Products in Ethiopia
As of 2019, employment in agriculture in Ethiopia stood at 67%, demonstrating the fact that most families rely on agriculture to make ends meet. Unfortunately, this reliance causes people to be forced to chop down their area’s forests in order to make space for livestock. Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region is one example of an area that has experienced significant deforestation for this reason.
Farm Africa is helping locals to sustainably profit from the forest’s resources, not only boosting income and thus increasing the quality of life but also providing an incentive to conserve the trees and the overall environment. The project of “producing and marketing forest products” works with forest management committees to empower farmers in setting up sustainable enterprises producing and selling products such as honey and incense. The charity sets up and supports those committees so farmers are aided in making links with better markets and having access to the finance required for developing their businesses. The project also “brings forest users and the government together to form agreements on how to use the area’s natural resources sustainably.”
Strengthening the Aquaculture System in Kenya
Over half of Kenya’s population rely on agriculture for their livelihood and survival. However, an increased frequency of drought and outbreaks of animal diseases has left communities even more vulnerable to hunger. As a result of population growth, rising disposable incomes and increased awareness of the nutritional benefits, the demand for fish in Kenya is on the rise.
The Kenyan aquaculture industry “has the potential to fill the existing supply and demand problem, increase employment opportunities and boost incomes for fish farmers” and Farm Africa is helping it to do just that. The Strengthening the Aquaculture Ecosystem in Kenya project (SAEK) builds an aquaculture environment that promotes economic justice for smallholder farmers via “sharing knowledge in the market systems, business development and finance and lobbying for enabling policies that will help farmers in building successful businesses.”
Commercializing Chilli Production in Uganda
Uganda has “one of the highest rates of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.” The agriculture sector contributed to 79% of the poverty reduction in Uganda between 2006 and 2013. In the Lira District of Uganda, many farmers grow African bird’s eye chillies but a lack of capital, quality equipment and seeds hold chilli producers and businesses back from entering high-end markets.
In order to help with this, in partnership with the North East Chilli Producers Association (NECPA), Farm Africa works with 17,000 farmers. NECPA helps chilli growers to gain access to quality seeds and equipment, increase how much they grow and meet international buyers’ quality standards. It trains young people, provides support and helps farmers address cash flow problems. This project takes an existing practice of growing chillies and helps it so that it can function to the highest standard and yield the most profit for farmers.
Overall, the work that Farm Africa does plays a vital role in the battle against extreme poverty. By drawing the link between rural communities, agriculture and the local environment, it is able to boost livelihoods for people now and future generations to come.
– Ruby Wallace
Photo: Wikimedia Commons