January 30th, 2013 | by Victoria Marzilli
Asewi Kuoaou is a member of a cocoa grower co-op in Yao, Ivory Coast. Photo by Peter DiCampo/Oxfam.
Are you on Instagram? If not, now might be a good time to sign up. This week, renowned photojournalists and curators of the Everyday Africa project, Peter DiCampo and Austin Merrill, are taking over Oxfam America’s Instagram account!
You might remember hearing about the Everyday Africa project from us back in September. Originally, Peter and Austin teamed up to counteract the extreme media images of Africa by sharing photos from across the continent of the mundane and familiar, which are equally, if not more enthralling. Now their work has expanded to be featured in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The New York Times, and this week, The New Yorker.
They are posting photos (like the one above) from their recent trip to the Ivory Coast to learn about women cocoa farmers. In the Ivory Coast, like in many countries, women are responsible for the majority of food production, despite having limited access to markets, land, and credit. If women had equal access to resources, their efforts could reduce world hunger, lower child malnutrition, and raise the incomes of rural people around the world. As a part of Oxfam’s GROW campaign, we are working hard to ensure that rural farmers, especially women, have the ability to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Follow us on Instagram at @OxfamAmerica to see all of their photos from the field.
December 24th, 2012 | by Elizabeth Stevens
When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January, 2010, it shone a spotlight on the need to ease the dangerous overcrowding in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. So, after responding to the disaster with emergency programs, Oxfam shifted some of our focus to the countryside. Together with our partners, we ramped up our efforts to reinvigorate the rice economy of the Artibonite Valley, with the goals of reducing rural poverty, contributing to food security in Haiti, and—by making rice farming more viable —counteracting the continuous pull to migrate from the country to the city. As Oxfam’s Elizabeth Stevens reports in a series of blog posts, Haiti’s rice farmers are embracing the program and making it their own.
"If your crops fail, you become poor," said Willi Elimelec (above). "You can't send your children to school." Photo: Elizabeth Stevens/Oxfam
At a roadside plot of land in Petite Rivière de l’Artibonite, I watched as Willi Elimelec raised an armful of fresh-cut stalks of rice over his head and struck them against a weathered log. With a whoosh and a gentle clatter, seeds flew into the air and then settled in a pile as he drew back for another stroke. The rhythmic, age-old sound of threshing by hand was drowned out each time a truck roared by—a reminder of the uneasy place the farmer occupies, with one foot in the world of his ancestors and one in a fast-paced globalized marketplace.
Here in the lush Artibonite Valley—a region that produces an abundance of rice—the farmers are poor. Undercut in the market by cheap imported rice and lacking the basic governmental supports that farmers in wealthy countries take for granted, Haiti’s small-scale rice growers can barely eke out a living.
Read the rest of this entry »
May 7th, 2012 | by Chris Hufstader
I recently visited the far eastern Kedougou region of Senegal, where inconsistent rains last summer led to a poor harvest in the fall. Since then food prices have shot up, and many there are struggling to find the food they need to survive each day, all the while worrying about how they will procure the seeds and other agricultural inputs they need to plant when the rains come, with any luck, in May or June. The farmers I met spoke about the struggle to feed their families and the concerns they have about the upcoming rainy season. They described the creative ways they have earned food money to make up for their poor harvest last fall, and what they need to be able to plant when the rains come. I was impressed with how resourceful the people are, how hard they work, and most of all by their determination to plant crops this year. However, all the farmers I spoke with were worried about finding the resources they need to plant– and eat– during the upcoming rainy season.
Please share this with others and contribute to our West Africa Food Crisis Fund. Oxfam is putting in place programs to help farmers in Kedougou and other areas of West Africa with seeds and other agricultural support, so they can plant this spring. We are also planning work that will help keep their drinking water clean and safe, and to provide food or short-term work for cash wages, so farmers will have food over the summer while they work their fields. With your help, we can expand this work to include as many people as possible and head off a major disaster.
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Baobab trees near the road east from Dakar to Kedougou (700 kilometers): During the dry season it is hard to imagine growing anything in the semi-arid, Sahelian climate in Senegal. Photo by Brett Eloff/Oxfam America.
Oxfam is aiming to help 1.2 million people across seven countries with programs that include cash transfers and cash-for-work initiatives, veterinary care for the livestock on which many families depend, and access to clean water and sanitation. We are also campaigning to change the root causes of this crisis. Find out how you can support our efforts.
March 2nd, 2012 | by Chris Hufstader
Farmers transplanting rice in Pursat province, Cambodia. Photo by Sokunthea Chor/Oxfam America.
A recent trip around the magnificent Tonle Sap lake reminded me how close to extreme poverty so many farming families can be, needing only a small nudge in the wrong direction to change their lives in ways that can take them decades to recover.
The reminder came while visiting Yem Dieb and Say Chhoun in Pursat, a province south of the lake. The wife and husband had learned how to grow rice using the System of Rice intensification thanks to the work of our partner Srer Khmer, which has trained nearly a thousand farmers in SRI over the last two years in Pursat.
Say Chhoun is a humble man but he is obviously proud of his rice-growing accomplishments over the last couple of years, as he took one small field producing one bag of rice a year to six, first by doubling his yield, then learning to produce three crops in a year instead of just one. It is still not enough to feed his entire family, which includes nine children, so Chhoun is also renting fields from other farmers to try to piece together enough land to grow the rice his family needs to survive. Read the rest of this entry »
January 11th, 2012 | by Chris Hufstader
Rice farmer Ynodyl Fils. Photo by Brett Eloff/Oxfam America
Got an unexpected Christmas present this year: I woke up on December 25 to find a story in the New York Times on rural livelihoods in Haiti: Quake-Scarred Nation Tries a Rural Road to Recovery.
Here’s the key paragraph from the story: “When the earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, planners and visionaries here and abroad looked past the rubble and saw an opportunity to fix the structural problems that have kept Haiti stuck in poverty and instability. An idea that won early support was to shrink the overcrowded, underemployed, violence-ridden capital and revive the desiccated, disused farmland that had long been unable to feed the country.”
So I spent part of Christmas morning studying the piece, as I had just spent part of the previous month in Haiti, and was trying to finish a story for Oxfam’s Exchange magazine on the very same topic. (Exchange readers will see it in their mailboxes in about a week.)
(The Times followed this up with an Op-Ed on 9 January by the co-directors of the Haiti Humanities Laboratory at Duke University entitled Haiti Can Be Rich Again encouraging support for small-scale farming. Conclusion: “The return on the investment in the rural economy would be self-reliance, the alleviation of dangerous overcrowding in cities and, most important, a path toward ending Haiti’s now chronic problems of malnutrition and food insecurity.”)
A quick review: lack of investment in agriculture and Haiti’s rural infrastructure, combined with macroeconomic policies that brought in cheap foreign competition in rice and pork and other food, has made farming a difficult way to make a living. Agriculture used to comprise nearly half of Haiti’s GDP; now it amounts to less than a quarter. Haiti now imports much of its food, and farmers have streamed into the city to seek work, part of the reason the January 2010 earthquake was such a disaster: a city designed for roughly a quarter million had about 3 million people there, many living in poorly constructed housing. Read the rest of this entry »
November 4th, 2011 | by Chris Hufstader
Farmers clearing a field near Brocozele, in the Artibonite River valley in Haiti. Photo by Brett Eloff/Oxfam America
In a small town called Brocozele, you can stand at the edge of the irrigation channel running along the road and look out across the rice fields and see the problem: One part of the vast area in front of you is green with the nearly mature rice plants, and just next to it is a grey, brown expanse of land choked with weeds and little else. The local farmers just can’t get the water up and out of the irrigation channel and into these fields. And for the last 18 months they say there has not been enough rain to bother planting there. Read the rest of this entry »
September 21st, 2011 | by Guest Blogger
Ian Sullivan is an online campaigner for Oxfam.
Imagine waking up one day to be told you’re about to be evicted from your home. Being told that you no longer have the right to remain on land that you’ve lived on for years. And then, if you refuse to leave, being forcibly removed by hired thugs.
Thankfully, this scary situation is one that most of us will never have to face. However, for many communities in developing countries, it’s a scandal that’s on the increase. It’s what’s known as a land grab – a land deal behind closed doors that often results in farmers being forced from their homes and families left hungry. Read the rest of this entry »
May 18th, 2011 | by Coco McCabe
Galgalo Boru is a herder who also depends in rain-fed fields to feed his family. Photo by Eva-Lotta Jansson/Oxfam America
It’s been years since the grasses of Deed Liben grew tall, ensuring a safe haven for wildlife and abundant nutrition for the herds of cattle and goats that families in the Guji zone of southern Ethiopia depend on for food and income. In a handful of places, preservation efforts have restored some of this renowned pastureland, but for many people, including Galgalo Boru, making a living by herding alone is no longer an option here.
Late one afternoon, as sheets of rain and sunshine washed the plain, he sat by the side of the road, a few cows behind him munching shoots of green the rain had coaxed from the ground. He was alone and contemplating the five hectares of wheat and haricot beans he had planted recently on the far side of the road. Some of it had sprouted—slivers of possibility pushing through the red earth—but so much depends on what comes next: sun that scorches or clouds that cool and bring rain?
Boru could only hope.
“I am a pastoralist,” he said. “But I lost many animals and now I am farming. Now, I don’t have animals except for a pair of oxen and a donkey.”
The rain came late to this region, and the dry days, seemingly endless, put severe stress on families and their animals. In the last month alone eight of Boru’s precious herd died, including six lactating cows and an ox. Weak and hungry from drought, most of them collapsed in the cold rain.
The pattern is hardly new—though climate change may be exacerbating it—and it’s one of the realities of this hardscrabble region that is pushing herding families to find new ways of making a living. Some are now turning to farming; some, like Boru, have long combined the cultivation of small plots with the care of livestock. With rain so unpredictable, however, there is an ongoing debate about the wisdom of encouraging agriculture here, and across the sweep of southern Ethiopia’s pasturelands. Read the rest of this entry »
October 18th, 2010 | by Anna Kramer
Jacqueline Morette during a visit to an Iowa farm, where she talked about the common challenges faced by farmers worldwide. Photo: Sarah Peck / Oxfam America
Jacqueline Morette almost didn’t make it to Des Moines, Iowa, last Friday morning. She’d just arrived from the airport with moments to spare, though you’d never know it from her calm smile as she took her place onstage, facing an audience of hundreds of food and agriculture experts.
A farmer from central Haiti, Morette was part of a panel on tackling malnutrition—an issue she knew intimately.
“In Haiti … infrastructure in rural areas is in bad shape, or nonexistent. Much of the country is mountainous. We farmers depend on rainfall: too much rain, you lose. Too little rain, you lose,” Morette explained through a translator. “Despite our efforts, most Haitians are food insecure. A lot of our kids are malnourished.”
The panel marked the final day of the World Food Prize Symposium, an annual conference that brings together leaders from the sciences, academia, corporations, and governments. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Take It to the Farmer”, referring to the importance of supporting subsistence farmers worldwide. Though about 60 international farmers attended the conference, only a few took the stage as panelists.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 8th, 2010 | by Chris Hufstader
Le Ngoc Thach (right) checks a rice field with a farmer from his cooperative in Dai Nghia, Vietnam. Photo by Chau Doan/Oxfam America.
Last month I visited rice farming areas in Cambodia and Vietnam and looked at how growers are using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to cut their costs and increase their yields. In addition to learning about SRI myself and hearing directly from farmers, I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the very strong and visionary leaders who are working every day to help people in their communities improve their lives.
One of them is Le Ngoc Thach, and you can read about him in my colleague Soleak Seang’s article here. When Thach became the leader of the growers’ cooperative in his village in Vietnam, he looked for innovative ways to fight poverty. He was certain SRI would help, but how do you convince farmers who have always grown rice the same way to suddenly change? It’s risky. Read the rest of this entry »