What does agriculture mean to you? These are the stories of smallholder farmers, youths and ONE members who have made agriculture part of their lives and are leading the call for change.

Adam’s Story

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“I would say farmers are the pillar of this country. Where does food come from? From our farms. Our leaders should put their heads together and see farming as the future.”

I’m Adam Yakubu and I’m a cocoa farmer. I am 33 years old with a family of three. I have a farm of about five acres, which I work on with four labourers.

After my education I decided to work with my father because I wanted to become a cocoa producer. I want to become one of the best cocoa producers in Ghana.

Firstly you have to put the seeds in the ground for two weeks to generate. You have to weed around them, and apply insecticide; otherwise pests will kill the seedlings.

They need to grow for 3-4 years before they start bear fruit. Then it will take several months until it is ripe for you to harvest.

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I have four acres of cocoa plants, which I have to harvest about 12 boxes of cocoa from at the end of the year. If I don’t get that quantity, I have to go to my creditors and negotiate with them.

Aside from cocoa, I also grow cassava, plantains, yam and tomatoes. So sometimes I have to harvest cassava to sell, and if I told you the amount of money it involves, you would laugh.

The transportation system is very bad. You will harvest your product and it will stay at the roadside for a week. Sometimes the food rots before it gets to the market. And when you get to the market, the pricing kills our soul.

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It’s not easy. You don’t get income daily, sometimes it’s a yearly affair. Sometimes you have to go on borrowing so before production begins you are already in debt.

But we are managing.

I would say farmers are the pillar of this country. Where does food come from? From our farms.  Farmers should be recognised for their work by their society. Every economic activity yields something – for a family, for a community, for a nation, for the world.

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The government should pay more attention to farmers. Sometimes you watch television and you see nice, beautiful offices where big meetings are being held about various industries. But when you go to communities where farming is done, we don’t have such meetings. After my day’s work, I just go to bed. Sometimes I can’t even listen to news to know what is going on.

Our leaders should put their heads together and see farming as the future. And if farming is the future, what are the best ways that we can build it?

Sometimes we need education. Sometimes we need farm inputs. But when you come to our local area, the inputs are not there – no electricity, no good access to roads, no farming inputs.

We are all planning to evacuate to the urban centers. But the land will be lying there, crying for workers and the cities will be crying for people to leave them because they will be stressed.

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But every day we go to farm, we go to work. Because looking at what I have planted, I will not let it spoil. Often at the end of the day my yield brings nothing home. I have toiled the whole day but there is nothing good for us to have. I have toiled the whole year but there is nothing tangible to lay my hand on.  Farmers we are at lost, but still we stand up.

You see I am always proud to be a farmer.

Yaya Touré’s story

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I make my living on the football field playing for my country, Côte d’Ivoire and my team, Manchester City.  But the majority of my fellow Africans make their living on a different type of field.

I feel really concerned by what is happening on the continent, particularly with regard to agriculture. Around 70% of Africans depend on this sector for their livelihoods. This is approximately 379 million people, producing 80% of our food. And yet, most of these small-scale farmers live in poverty and are struggling to feed their families.  This should not be a normal situation.

2014 has been declared the Year of Agriculture & Food Security by the African Union, giving us an opportunity to turn the spotlight on these issues. As citizens, we need to tell our leaders that it is no longer enough to talk about hunger and poverty. We need them to make a real commitment and take action.

In 2003, African leaders signed the Maputo Declaration, committing themselves to investing at least 10% of the annual budget in agriculture, in recognition of this sector’s critical importance. Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger, and Senegal have consistently met this commitment, and are proof that this type of deal can lead to concrete changes in the lives of their citizens. Burkina Faso’s agricultural growth has increased by more than 6% per year and it is on track to cut hunger and extreme poverty rates in half.

In June 2014, African leaders will meet again to discuss agriculture.

In collaboration with farmers’ organisations and associations across the continent, ONE’s DO AGRIC campaign aims to improve the image of agriculture. We need to show the youth that their future does not necessarily lie in the city, but that decent work is available in rural areas too.

ONE is also mobilising Africans to petition our leaders, so that when they meet, they resolve to strengthen and expand the 2003 Maputo agreement with a comprehensive investment and reform package for agriculture, known as the Enhanced Maputo Declaration.

I have chosen to work with ONE in support of this initiative, because it is critical that African states invest their money where it can be put to best use. My aim is to bring the voices of smallholder farmers to the policy making table.

Investing in agriculture would not only improve the lives of our farmers, but would also promote sustainable economic growth and create much-needed jobs and lift millions out of poverty. That is good reason to DO AGRIC.

 

Maria’s Story

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When I sleep, all I think about is the potatoes – they are helping my dreams come true.

I am 43 years old and have five children and four grandchildren. I was born here in Mwasonge, Tanzania and I am a farmer.Sweet Potatoes in Tanzania

I used to sleep on a rag on the floor with my children, then I met Mwanaidi. She is a trained farmer, and she gave me new seeds and taught me how to grow orange sweet potatoes. She taught me about soil irrigation, crop multiplication, about dividing vines – the things we didn’t know before.

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She also taught me more about selling my crop. Customers ask me why my potatoes are different in colour. I explain that they are orange because they contain vitamin A, which provides protection in the body and are good for kids and adults’ growth. So customers get excited and buy from me.

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Now we sell seeds, chips, biscuits, doughnuts, flour and even pancakes all made from sweet potatoes. I work happily knowing I will be getting out of poverty by doing what I am doing. I am now a leader in my farming group and teach others what I have learned.

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When I sleep, all I think about is the potatoes. The dream is always the same: to finish the house I am building out of brick stones, to sleep in a comfortable place, to raise the standard of living for my children and grandchildren and send them all to school.

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The sweet potato farming is helping my dreams come true.

 

D’banj’s Story

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Today the Koko Master has become the Koko Farmer. Cocoa is very big in Ghana, but the people who grow it don’t even have enough money to feed themselves – and they’re farmers!

Musician and ONE member D’banj travelled to Ghana to meet cocoa farmers like Adam and find out what it means to be a smallholder farmer.

I got here and had no network on my phone – then I felt it. I knew that ok, this is real.

I’ve come to study and understand the power and values behind agriculture. You can call me the new farmer.

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This is where the farmers are, this is where agriculture is key, and then there’s no light, there’s no GSM, there’s no phone there’s no technology.  These are the individual small-scale farmers that feed us.

Farmers are the foundation of the society. And if your foundation is not strong, no matter the mansion, it’s going to collapse.

I’m from Nigeria, and I’ve found out that 40% of our income is spent on food.  Here in Ghana it’s also such a large percentage and yet we are not awakened to know agriculture is the future.

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Cocoa is very big here, but the people who grow it don’t even have enough money to feed themselves – and they’re farmers!

They don’t have enough stability, enough financial services, or enough support from the government– everything that they would need to build their jobs, grow more food, to take it from A to B.  And this would bring the cost of what we are spending on food down. It’s affecting us everywhere.

My parents didn’t want me to do music because they thought it wasn’t bankable. So we need to make people understand that when it comes to agriculture, it’s not a job for the less privileged.  Most people don’t know that agriculture can actually make you a billionaire.

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We need to come together as one, because Africa is one. We need to wake our youths up, let them know that they are the future leaders of tomorrow. Let them know that we have 69% of Africa’s labour force working in agriculture, and yet we’re suffering.

Farmers are so important. And just like foundations, you hardly notice them – but if we have a strong foundation, we can not only feed Africa, but Africa can feed the world.  We have everything we need right here.

 

Tiken Jah Fakoly’s Story

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The earth is a factory capable of employing millions of young people.

I am a reggae man, music is my profession. But when I am not singing, I want to put myself at the service of my continent, Africa, in which I believe.

This is precisely the reason why I created the association “Un concert, une école” (One concert, one school). I have built schools in Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire in order to give children the opportunity to go to school and to highlight the importance of education in our countries.

After that, I began to develop an interest in farming, because Africa needs education and food. We have all this land. It rains, the sun shines; all you need to grow food. Yet we import more than 60% of our food!

I therefore decided to farm in the North of Côte d’Ivoire, in the village where I spent part of my childhood. I invested in tractors and seeds, and began to grow rice, with the country folk who live in this area. By investing in this domain, I also wanted to change the image of agriculture, especially among young people. Currently, it is considered “dirty” work, although we all need to eat.

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When you travel in African capitals today, you see a lot of idle young people, who only ask for money. Many people today think that being a farmer is not THE trendy job – but this is a noble job. Without it, we wouldn’t have food to eat in the big cities. One should be proud to be a farmer.

The earth is a factory that can employ millions of young people. Through agriculture, Africa can rise again.

This is why I have made the commitment to stand with ONE in the “Do Agric, It pays!” campaign.

This campaign aims to educate as many people as possible on the benefits of this sector for the continent, so that they might mobilise and call on our leaders to fulfil their commitment to invest 10% of GDP in agriculture.

 

Vincent’s Story

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“I think young people all over Africa should look to farming to improve their lives. I’m a farmer by accident but I’m loving it.”

I’m Vincent and I come from Molemole, Limpopo Province in South Africa. I’m 28 and a farmer. I grow maize, butternut squash, watermelon, tomato, beetroot and cabbages. I am a farmer by accident but I’m loving it.

I was raised by a single parent and we were very poor when I was growing up. I think that my mother earned R5000 a year. In today’s US dollars, that is just over $500.

I had dreams of becoming an auditor and fighting corruption but we didn’t have money to send me to university. But I did have an opportunity. I was helping my mother while I was in school on our small plot of two hectares. And after I was done with school, I started helping her full time- that’s how I became a farmer.

Our produce started being noticed for its quality and in 2006, the local Department of Agriculture selected me for a training programme where I learned about soil quality, when to plant certain crops and about growing tomatoes, which are higher value crops. I eventually got my own plot, started expanding, and began to employ some local people to help me manage my harvests.

In 2010, I went to school again to learn about the business side of farming and best management practices. I learned about finances, communications, labour and best standards for my produce. In 2011, I won the Best Farmer award in Molemole Municipality and came second in the district for the informal sector division. I was so excited.

Last year I decided to expand my operation and was able to obtain 20 hectares from the traditional council in my area and another 20 from the municipality. I’ve had to spend my savings to clear the land and drill boreholes for irrigation, but hope to be up and running by the end of this year.

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Farming is hard work. It is very challenging, but so rewarding. I think there are three main challenges for young farmers like me.

First, we need access to land and financial services. I have been very lucky, I had my mother’s plot to start from. Not all young unemployed South Africans are so fortunate. South Africa is redistributing its land but it often goes to people who don’t make a living from it.

Banks require security and collateral for loans. I’ve saved and have been able to use this to expand, but we need insurance and loans to help us move forward. When we take a risk, we need the government to meet us halfway in managing these costs.

Second, we need to challenge the perception that informal sector farmers like myself provide poor quality produce. I was once told by a buyer for a big market that he wouldn’t buy tomatoes from black farmers. And this was a black man telling me this. He would buy spinach and butternut but not tomatoes. So we must try to promote the real quality of food that informal farmers produce.

And finally, we need access to fair markets. As we plan our crop we need to be sure that it will not go to waste. We need policies that support the development of markets so that farmers can increase their harvest, earn more income and improve their families’ lives.

There is so much opportunity in farming. I think young people all over Africa should look to farming to improve their lives and improve our continent. We’re always crying of not having jobs. Why can’t we just make our own job?

I dream of owning 1000 hectares in ten years where I can have a herd of cattle and provide so many jobs to contribute to poverty alleviation. I know this is possible and with the right policies from government, all of us here will be farming.

source : one.org