Farmers' perspectives on challenges in the food system: a collaborative research partnership

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Earth and Environment

Abstract

In Ghana and Tanzania the majority of the population engages in different ways with farming and food production. However, these countries fail to feed all their people with healthy, sufficient food for all. Many vulnerable groups do not have enough nourishing, good quality food when and as they need it all year round. This is all the more serious as many people are actually producing food for the market: they are small scale farmers and often struggle to feed themselves and their families. Farming is labour intensive, prices for food crops are low, pest control is challenging, finance for small farms hard to obtain and many international interventions - especially those providing technological packages for new seeds, fertilisers and pesticides - are often inadequate to local conditions and needs and end up being ineffective when not causing harm. Moreover, the voices and interests of small scale farmers is hardly ever heard in national-level debates, not to mention international ones. A lot of research on food in Africa is top-down, agendas are set somewhere else, without consulting farmers. This research engages the two main small scale farmers' organisations in Ghana and Tanzania as equal partners, to carry out research with them rather than for them with the goal of advancing the interests of small scale farmers, making them more visible and heard in the national debate, with the longer-term objective of shifting the terms of this debate to put small scale farmers' interest centre-stage. The team in this research include researchers from universities in the UK, Tanzania and Ghana working together with farmers' organisations on issues identified by farmers themselves. We will train a group of young academics and activists to give them the tools to carry out research that matters to farmers' organisations. Some of these problems are rooted in the history of food and farming in Ghana and Tanzania - others in global politics. We will share with these young scholars all the ways in which academic research nowadays can be applied to big picture issues so that they will go on after us to use research to be of service to their people. By doing this, we also make sure that these scholars become people the farmers' organisations can rely upon when they need research on urgent issues.

Planned Impact

This project will enhance the way research is conducted and communicated in Tanzania and Ghana and beyond, through partnership development and training activities. The beneficiaries from this project will be:

Two partner Farmers' Organisations: MVIWATA and PFAG, both through the generation of useful data about their members' needs, priorities and perspectives and their experience in the partnership. They will learn new ways of working that will enable them to become more effective learning organisations from this experience which will help them in a) commissioning research in partnership with academics and b) influencing policy makers, at both local and national levels, through more informed advocacy. We also hope that the project will catalyse south-south learning between the farmer organisations in the project and beyond.

We plan for the lessons from our research partnership to be shared with other chapters of La Via Campesina in Africa (a nascent network in which our partner Farmer Organisations are chapters). A liaison officer for La Via Campesina is based at MWIVATA and is well-placed to share lessons more widely across the network.

Other farmer networks such as Fairtrade Africa will also benefit from the lessons from the partnership building and farmer voice, and are also interested in the findings of the pilots where they link to their own objectives with respect to farmer incomes and livelihood diversification.

Twenty Early Career Researchers and food and farming activists will benefit from training on the SoP methodology, and six in each country will further benefit from the internships that will deliver the pilot research projects. This will be useful career development for the selected trainees and interns, as well as research capacity building in both countries, and will supplement the pool of appropriately qualified researchers in the Ghana and Tanzania who can work on food system topics from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Six academics will benefit from the partnership development, participation in the workshop and training activities, and also through the academic writeshop that will help them enhance their ability to write for, and be published in, international journals.

Academics and other stakeholders involved with the Global Food and Environment Institute from a variety of disciplines will benefit from the lessons on partnership building that we plan to document, as well as extending their network of contacts and partners that the GFEI will be able to engage with in the future for the benefit of further projects.

Ultimately the project will benefit the members of the farmers' organisations so that they can better articulate their voices within their own organisations, and also so that these organisations can advocate more effectively in the national and international political debate on food and agricultural policies, putting farmers' voice centre-stage.

Publications

10 25 50