Among the 8 Millenium Development Goals set out in the year 2000, the first one is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The goal is to see the population who suffer from hunger reduced by half by the year 2015. The Food and Agriculture Organisation-FAO reckons that 805 million people still suffer from chronic hunger and among these are 161 million children under five years who are chronically mulnourished. You agree that these figures are alarming. With the prediction that the world’s population is likely to grow to 9 billion by 2050, agriculture is seen to be the most effective way of reducing poverty and achieving food security. OAIC has taken this as a call to do all that is possible in order to achieve food and nutrition security though small sacle farmers.
Up to 80% of Africa’s population is fed by small holder farms and small holder agricukture employs about 70% of the population. This is indeed a major contribution small holder farmers are making to the social, economic and poltical life of Africa.
The prolonged period of low instement in agriculture left small holder farmers to fend for themselves in a harsh policy environment which was majorly influeneced by the demands of the structural adjustment programmes and policy making processes by African governmemnts which pushed agriculture to the sidelines.
OAIC has embarked on a journey to work with small holder farmers to not only increase crop production but also to enhance their capacity to engage with policy makers.
One such initiative is active in the pastrolist region of West Pokot. In an effort to evaluate the progress of this initiative, we take to this draught-struck area to witness and hear from the farmers. To start with, farmers identified demostration plots where seeds provided by OAIC were planted. It is interesting to note that what is traditionally known to be a patrolist community is slowly moving towards farming of draught resistant crops like millet and sorghum hence working towards climate adaptation. These crops are said to be high in nutrients and can last longer in the storage facilities of rural households. This move has been appreciated by the farmers and are collaborating in the activities of the demonstration farms. ‘Tunafurahi na hii maendeleo mnatuletea’ (We are happy with the developments you have introduced to us). This was echoed by several farmers amomg them Mr. Isaiah Mukeluk of Long’on Group.
In the last four months, farmers of Mafuta Pole Church, Sekerr Ward, Mbara sub-location in West Pokot are proud to report that farming can become part of their economic activity. ‘Ile masomo Karita (Farmer Resource Person) anatufundisha, tumeishikilia na tunafuata na inatusaidia’ (We have been receiving training from the farmer resource person and the teachings have been helpful) says Mr. Roitan. Jonathan Karita a young agronomist who serves as the resource person in the area has attracted other young people in the community to engage in agriculture. It is evedent in all the groups the youth constitute a larger percentage of the farmers’ groups. Women particularly form a large population of the groups with their roles mainly centered in providing labour for the farms. However, they are slowly moving beyond providing farm labour to start engaging in other issues around agriculture-especially engaging policy makers.
This is great success and even if the ultimate goal of achieving food secury has not been reached in totality, there are indicators that showing that the bigger goal of ending hunger is achievable if the major producers of food i.e. small holder farmers-especially women- are at the centre of action. Of the outlined OAIC goals in Redeeming the harvest: Action for Agriaculture, Food and Nutrition Security, connecting farming with better nutrition, climate resilience and enhancing the role of women and young people, comes out strongly in the West Pokot experience.