Guy’s news: Improving farmers’ lives where it counts

18 years ago, after 12 years as an organic grower, I could take no more taunts of, “It’s all very well for the wealthy west, but organic farming will never feed the world”. I had a lurking suspicion they might be right, so I took a sabbatical in sub-Saharan Africa, where good farming is a matter of life and death rather than affluent preference.

I spent my final two weeks staying with Timothy Njakasi in southern Uganda. Timothy had worked at Riverford as part of his training in sustainable agriculture. My heart lifted as he showed me the most inspiring farming I had ever seen; all small scale and always diverse with mixtures of livestock, bananas, coffee, cocoa, trees, vegetables, keyhole gardens and more, all in an intimate mixture that seemed chaotic but was anything but. On the face of it these farms bore more resemblance to the surrounding forest than to any agriculture I had seen; what seemed disordered was actually shaped by levels of ecological knowledge unknown to farmers in the developed world, and yet these smallholdings were many times more productive than neighbouring monocultures. Best of all, the most skilled farmers appeared to be happy, relaxed and prosperous. It was obvious I had more to learn than to teach, so we funded Timothy to turn his farm into the Kasenge Riverford Organic Centre, which has trained thousands in these techniques over the last 15 years.

The difference between the average and the best farming I saw was huge, as was the difference between the most and least effective interventions by charities. Timothy introduced us to Send a Cow, who embraced the same techniques on a larger scale but who remain grounded, patiently persistent and community based in their approach, which is always a hand up rather than a hand out. Most impressively they’re unbelievably effective at addressing the social (largely gender) issues which too often block constructive change; 85% of Send a Cow farmers are women. To date, you’ve helped us raise over £208k for the charity. This winter every £1 donated until 31st December for their Mother and Child appeal will be matched by UK Government. Donate by adding a £1 donation to your order.

Guy Singh-Watson

7 responses to “Guy’s news: Improving farmers’ lives where it counts

  1. Inspirational!

  2. Am very interested in Kasenge centre … but their website is down. Can you let them know they have a technical problem? Longer term, is it possible to have some more updates on what they are doing …. A quick look at their Facebook page seems to indicate that they get lots of interest from Europeans but less than they hoped for from their own countrymen.

  3. I read this with a large smile on my face. Thank God for Riverford and all who sail in her.
    Thank you Guy

  4. This is wonderful I’m inspired thanku.

  5. We think we know so much in the sophisticated western “developed” world – but here’s a wonderful example of local people in touch with their environment and knowing how to work with it. Terrific

  6. How easilly we forget….in the rush to put my order through( as l dont have internet access at home at moment,😥 )Ihave to go to iether a decent cafe or in yesterdays case (as have often done in the past,when in a hurry)Morrisons Cafe to access internet and put my Riverford order in for Tuesday.
    To my dismay ,all links from Morrisons to the Riverford site are BLOCKED!!So in response to this Christmas gesture of good will from Morrisons…..
    l shall be donating to mother and child as we do forget how lucky we are ,Morrisons besides.So thankyou for the gentle reminder ,as l drink a decent coffee in the Curator and make my order.

  7. Timothy is Seeds for Development’s Chief Advisor in Uganda https://www.seedsfordevelopment.org/the-team. We (a tiny charity of just 2 of us in the UK) have just returned from visiting our projects. Our peer farmers spent a week’s residential at Kasenge Riverford Organic Training Centre in August 2017. They showed us exactly what they had learnt, it was an incredible life-changing experience and will influence many thousands of the poorest of people. They have gone back to their remote villages in northern Uganda and are teaching the local communities how to make the best of their land. It is unsurprising that the Kasenge website is down, they don’t have much in the way of technology, the facebook page is current https://www.facebook.com/Kasengeriv/ do look us up at http://www.seedsfordevelopment.org

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