“The farmers!” Farmers’ own worst enemies.

Only in Africa, farming is considered the least rewarding and therefore the most unappreciated career despite its immense contribution to economic development. Small scale rural farmers who are the majority own small parcels of land and use rudimentary tools and technologies – research has it that about 60% of small holders cultivate crops on less than 1.2 hectares (ha) of land; another 25% on 1.2-2ha, and the remaining 15% on holdings at 2ha. Some intrinsic and extrinsic factors also try to emasculate farmers’ ability to emancipate themselves from the shackles of poverty. Governments and other stakeholders have put up interventions to empower farmers and enable them increase their farm productivity but despite these efforts, farming remains the last option.

Why are farmers not reaping enough benefits from their trade? I dare say a farmer is his own worst enemy; what is pulling farmers back from accruing those financial gains from their farming? Why should they toil on their farms only to through away the produce of their sweat? Why is it that a farmer lets the middlemen decide the price at which to buy that sack of potatoes whereas the same farmer has no control over the price of a plate of fries? The middle men and the people selling fries dictate their own prices putting into account all the expenses. Why can’t farmers decide their own prices putting into account all the expenses of production incurred too?

What do you think would happen if all the farmers refused to work? Or better still, what would happen if they all refused to sell their farm produce? You will all agree with me that the results of any of these two actions would be devastating. But despite these vast powers conferred upon them by the critical role they play in the country’s economy,“our farmers” continue wallowing in the vaults of poverty as others benefit from their hard work.

Governments, NGO, Civil Societies and other institutions have in the recent past channeled their energies towards helping the small holder farmer increase productivity. These efforts have not gone to waste, from them we’ve realized bumper harvests in potatoes, maize and even we’ve witnessed milk being poured due to overproduction. Global production of major cereals set a world record in 2008, yet 300 million Africans lack sufficient food each day- among them are small scale farmers. Is this all we need to have successful farmers? No. Selling such products at rewarding prices is what we need and this is where the farmers have become their own enemies.

Why give away a one and a half sack of potatoes at 1500 while a plate of fries goes at 80 or more depending on where one gets them?? Am informed this price can go as high as 300/= depending on where you will eat them from – it is quite exorbitant to have them at the Hilton. Such prices are conspicuously exhibited on the “menu” and no bargaining, so why shouldn’t we farmers determine our own prices? It is high time we formed farmer groups for the purpose of marketing our products as is only by coming together that we can collectively determine prices for our products – I was told there is strength in numbers.

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