Thinking aloud: How could I forget the smallholder farmer?
Smallholder farmers till the land to produce food that serve millions of people. The other day, I was surprised to hear people accusing you our food suppliers of being stingy and wanting everything for free because you are used to it. It seems as though they forget that your economic situation is different from theirs. They forget the struggles you go through to produce food and even find a market for it.
When I visited, to interact with you in your community, you quickly went to your backyard garden and harvested one of your matured and nice looking bunches of plantain and gave it to me as a gift. You even added a litre of cooking palm oil. All these you did without me, even, asking how generous you are! It is unfortunate that I forget so quickly.
When the market woman came to your village, she bought your bag of maize at a cheap price telling you the price of maize had fallen at the city markets and you believed it. But I am happy that now you are using a mobile phone that serves as a tool that can help you to obtain information directly from the city and share that information with your fellow farmers.
I sometimes forget that you don’t earn a monthly income. Your income is seasonal in nature and small in quantity. You may even have spent your income before you have earned it at the end of the season. You might have borrowed money from your friends or relatives and need to pay them back. Similarly, the cocoa seedlings you purchased on credit needs to be paid for as well.
I forget that your children and mine all attend the same university and we pay the same amount of school fees. How could I forget that our economic situations are entirely different and yet we pay the same rates like transport fares and national health insurance, amongst others?
When I hear on the radio and see on the news that you and your family have gone hungry, I am tempted to think that you are lazy. But how could I forget that you face the harsh realities of our ever-changing climate? The weather has become more difficult to predict, you depend solely on the rains for your farming. Just one prolonged drought can wipe out all the crops you have planted and cause your efforts to go to waste. Illegal small-scale surface mining is destroying agricultural lands, threatening your livelihood and destroying the water bodies that you rely on. And all we do as a community is sit and watch everything unfold.
From now on, as a consumer, I am going to start playing an active role in our food system. Anytime I have food on my table, I will ask myself: where does the food come from; how was it produced; could I do more to support the people who produced it so that they receive fair price for what they produce? I am going to adapt my food shopping habit. I will make an effort to buy directly from farmers’ markets. When I can afford, I will also buy to support certified food label initiatives from fair trade, bio, organic to eco labels. This will be my contribution toward the quest for a fair and just food system and sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers.
Photo credit: Patrick Sakyi.