The good book talks of patience as a virtue. Actually, persistence at what you do should matter, as long as it is right. Today in Africa, smallholder farmers are cautiously optimistic of harvest. They are less likely to confidently say the number of bags of sorghum or millet they will net at the end of the season. This is largely due to the vagaries of weather, disease and at times low quality seed. As I put on their lens, I see dejection not far from over if status quo remains. However, as a “real-optimist” I cannot let go of this clutching of the straw amidst adversity. The road to prosperity will definitely have mountains ahead…
Climate change has pumelled farmers mercilessly in the last decade! From unreliable rainfall to noxius pests and disease, the ag appeal keeps fading for these hardworking folks. In sub Saharan Africa, we are talking of about near 100% crop failure or loss. We are staring at pests crunching at our granaries without remorse. Even though many ag related policies and infrastructure are in place, we cannot tell when impactful strategies will reach us. With minimal to no mechanization, a lot of man-hours accounted for on the field toiling and no return to investment as farmers; very little is left to smile about. Great innovations keep being patented in the field of agroecosystems management. Many are yet to be upscaled to reach their desired users — maybe due to something we don’t know as smallholders. Might be because of the increasingly underfunded agricultural research entities? Either way, some if not all of these technologies ought to be intentionally made appealing to the youth. If farming becomes “more romantic”, the youthful (in Kenya they happen to be about 80% of the total workforce even though unemployment is at 50%) will make headway.
The glimmer of hope is this — climate smart strategies work! They work because they have been tried and tested before and yielded results. The issue, however, has been unpacking the technologies to the rural poor. I believe African governments, with the requisite goodwill, can enable this shift in sustainable development be a reality. Further, supporters of African governments can safely influence commitments to this cause. Food insecurity and malnutrition should not deny us a chance at the table of faster economic development. I believe that solid redress on the food security issue translates to better economic return. Most developed nations always got their agriculture right i.e. food security was sorted urgently before they ventured in other spheres of economic development and diversification. In the place of “growth as long as it is growth” <>, let’s have a rejuvenation of pro-poor agriculture strategies that are climate smart, to yield socio-economic empowerment.
One day, soon, I’d love to see more no-till,irrigation and water-efficient seeds initiatives that result in more food on tables, less or no stories on malnutrition and more farmer incomes! I’ll do my part — hoping you will too!