SEATTLE, Washington — An organization called JAFOWA, or Joint Action for Farmers’ Organisations in West Africa, is attempting to help small farmers in West Africa. JAFOWA’s goal is to support small farmers’ organizations in West Africa, particularly in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
Roger Thurow, Pulitzer Prize winner and co-author of the book, “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty,” believes he knows the key to ending hunger in developing countries. Following research from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he states that “the best way to reduce the poverty of these very poorest countries is by focusing on the small farmers, the poorest of the poor.” The only question is, what is the best way to help small farmers? JAFOWA may have an answer.
Cooperative Support for Cooperative Organizations
As an organization, JAFOWA is itself a sign of the widespread recognition of the importance of farmers’ organizations around the world. JAFOWA is actually an alliance of four preexisting foundations: Fondation de France, Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione Cariplo and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). It also exists under the umbrella of the Network of European Foundations from 20 different countries. JAFOWA tries to effect change by working with organizations of many different kinds, both public and private, using five interrelated tactics.
- Advocating: Pressing political leaders to adopt policies that foster sustainable agricultural growth.
- Scaling: Helping local farmers scale their products to generate more income.
- Partnering: Bringing farmers’ organizations together with private and public partners.
- Innovating: Testing new products and introducing them to farmers.
- Organizing: Empowering farmers, particularly marginalized women and indigenous people, to take on leadership roles.
JAFOWA’s Success in Ghana
One of the most significant stories in West African agriculture in the 21st century is the development of sesame seeds as a cash crop in Ghana. Some researchers had declared sesame seeds to be of “astronomical importance in Ghana” at the turn of the millennium. The SNV Netherlands Development Organisation called the seeds “the new cocoa.” Sesame is easy to grow in drought conditions and marginal soils and it is growing in popularity around the world because of its health benefits.
Since 2017, JAFOWA has been working with the Ghana National Sesame Business Farmers Association to help as many as 5,000 sesame farmers in Northern Ghana find a market for their crops. According to Clifford Amoah Adagenera, Coordinator of the Ghana National Sesame Business Farmers Association, JAFOWA’s efforts have helped many farmers improve their living conditions and purchasing power, buying such capacity-building tools as bicycles and motorbikes.
Projects in Burkina Faso
JAFOWA also has several ongoing projects in Burkina Faso. For one, the organization has founded farm schools such as the Apad Sanguie in Sanguie Province, which researches sustainable agro-ecological practices and distributes them to farmers. JAFOWA is also working with the Interprofessional Committee of the Onion Sector in Burkina (CIFOB) to restructure the already-profitable onion industry to adapt to climate change and distribute farmland more equitably. It helped female Burkinabe farmers in the shea, honey and sesame industries increase their income and autonomy.
Though it is not alone, JAFOWA is one organization attempting to help West African farmers take advantage of the massive environmental and human resources they already have at their disposal. The organization’s leaders envision a world in which local farmers’ organizations and the smallholder farmers who make them up will create an agricultural revolution that will lift millions out of poverty.
– Eric Rosenbaum