Earlier this month some of Trax’s farmers had a unique encounter with their counterparts from different parts of the world. Facilitated by the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network (BSUFN) and with the help of modern technology they participated in a video chat about the realities of small-scale farming. This conversation formed part of the second BSUFN symposium.
The participants were Collette Haynes, CEO of Ashurst Organics, UK, Dr. Mikey Tomkins representing Hunt Institute, Southern Methodist University, USA and 8 of Trax’s farmers. The discussion was chaired by Rachael Taylor, doctoral student and former field researcher at Trax Ghana. Structured around the global food nexus, the participants discussed the opportunities and challenges relating to land, energy, water and food in their various places of work.
The outcomes of the discussion reinforced the idea that despite the different conditions that small-scale farmers work in, many of their challenges are similar. All participants identified a lack of support for small-scale farming. Regardless of the efforts made at creating more appreciation for this kind of farming, the panelists still felt largely overlooked by governments and other stakeholders. Irrigation for smallholders is an example of something many of them would like to realize but public institutions rarely consider worth investing in.
Climate change obviously came up as another challenge that farmers are faced with worldwide. Even though the effects are sometimes opposite (Ashurst Organics in the UK has to cope with excessive rain while Trax’s farmers need to adjust to extended periods of drought) all farmers stated that the changes had really affected them since seven years ago.
The conversation also accentuated a number of differences. The effects of bad harvests, for example, turn out very differently in the developed and the developing regions of the world. When the United Kingdom experienced a particularly bad year in 2008, supermarkets were still full. Food poverty exists but people do not go through hunger seasons in the same sense as they do in Northern Ghana. Another big difference that was identified is the negligible scale of urban farming in the Upper East Region of Ghana while it is on the rise in many other parts of the world.
The participants, audience and the Trax team highly appreciates this rare opportunity to compare and contrast the local realities of food production.