Everybody Needs Good Neighbors

15 Feb 2008

EXCLUSIVE – Two Ugandan Terra Madre food communities recently hosted a group of 25 small-scale farmers from Kenya to share skills and knowledge. During the weeklong visit, members of the Kenyan Central Rift convivium learned about a different way of farming and realized they were underutilizing their natural resources.

A key message conveyed by the host community was the need to create a balance between the local interests of a population and international activities: growing products for export only provides benefits if you also continue to satisfy the needs of the domestic market.

Forming cooperatives and diversifying agricultural production enables farmers to sell products on foreign markets, whilst defending and protecting their local economy and traditional agricultural methods.

Another useful lesson concerned energy resources. The collection of fuel wood, an acute problem for many across the continent, has been rendered unnecessary in some Ugandan homes by the installation of biogas units.

Elderly Mrs. Loyumbya supplies her house with energy from the dung produced by her two cattle. The startup costs of biogas, though prohibitive for a single farmer, are well within the means of the Ugandan cooperative.

The host communities also demonstrated how they had made significant improvements in their land management: underutilized land has been made productive, swampy fields have been converted into nurseries and waste weeds are now used as an excellent poultry feed.

During their visit, the Kenyans also learned from Haji Zephunya that the production of passion fruit, a widespread crop in Kenya, could be improved by using organic methods that increase yields and reduce costs.

This beneficial exchange was driven by a desire to share experiences and highlights the role of the international Terra Madre network. The Kenyan farmers have returned home confident and inspired by their experience. They are particularly keen to apply the lessons learned, illustrating the observation that ‘only through sharing can you increase the efficiency of your work, at the same time guaranteeing product quality and traceability’.

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