If given adequate support, these small-scale Kenyan farmers can feed all of Kenya and produce surpluses for export. Picture from Bilaterals.org.
With small-scale farming in Kenya as an example, I have made the case that it is small-scale farmers who will feed the world with improved nutrition. Large-scale commercial, industrial agriculture, which has received the major proportion of international attention and finance, will not provide the solution. It has led to the benefits going to large corporations while causing great environmental problems. World opinion needs to turn around and began focusing on small-scale farmers throughout the world who already produce seventy percent of the world’s food.
The first important attitude to change is the one that considers the small-scale farmer as backward, stupid, and “a brother to the ox.” Small-scale farming takes a lot of intelligent know-how. As I hardly had any knowledge myself, I have been just an observer of the myriad details that it takes to grow various crops and tend various animals here in western Kenya. Those who do involve themselves in agriculture development in sites like this should first understand and tap into the knowledge that the local farmers already have. Then it is necessary to build on this knowledge rather than to overturn it with “expert” advice.
There is much that the international community and non-government organizations can do to enhance the food productivity of small-scale farmers.
- More effort needs to be put into developing better varieties of all crops. This can include crops that have higher yields, are more drought resistant, more nutritious, more resistance to diseases and insects, faster growing, and so on. There is tremendous potential to improve crops which can more than compensate for any increase in population.
- Better techniques in planting, cultivating, harvesting, and storage should be developed. This can include better farming implements that can be used by small-scale farmers.
- Animal husbandry can also be substantially improved including the better use of manure.
- Governments need to revive their agricultural extensive services. This should include sufficient in-service training for extension workers so that they can keep up with the latest developments. Their numbers need to be appropriate to the number of farmers they are advising.
- Government policies and support should target the small-scale farmer and not just the large commercial farmers.
- Advice to small-scale farmers should not be coming only from companies that sell merchandise to the farmers. They have their own interests which may or may not coincide with those of the farmers they are advising. Increased production should focus on benefiting small-scale farmers rather than large commercial companies.
- Appropriate cooperative societies and marketing boards controlled by the small-scale farmers need to be strengthened, reformed, and/or established where necessary. Middlemen need to be removed from the marketing of crops since they buy as cheaply as possible and sell as high as possible so both the farmer and consumer are exploited.
- Corruption and mismanagement in government controlled agricultural organizations including marketing boards and farmers’ cooperative societies need to be attacked with vigor. If these organizations truly supported the interests of their farmers, they would go a long way towards prosperity and benefit of small-scale farmers.
The conventional wisdom in the world is that food production will need to increase by 50 percent in order to better feed the world’s growing population. Small-scale farmers with the strong, appropriate support of governments, not-for-profit organizations, and the larger international community can easily accomplish this goal.
I have had numerous comments on the twenty-five postings I have made on this topic of small-scale farming in Kenya. Some have encouraged me to make this into a short book. This I plan on doing as I will reorganize, edit, and add more examples to produce a book from these postings. This is going to take some time, but it is in the works. I’ll let you know when the book is available.
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