by Frederick Moleye (ELP 2016) | Crop Protection Specialist, University of Buea, Cameroon
Sustainable agriculture with small scale farmers has almost always been treated superficially in developing countries. As we engaged in training in sustainability by Professor David Zilberman, agroecology by Professor Miguel Altieri and the fieldtrips we undertook to urban farms to visit the Spiral Garden Community Farm amongst others and the visit to the Salinas Valley, one would clearly see that sustainable agriculture is just practical. One would have imagined that the urban farms would be carried out on larger and larger hectares of land but that was not the case. Of course, every day, farmers around the world develop techniques to produce and distribute food sustainability. The farmers must be able to make profit, manage the land, air and water and above all, improve their lives and that of their communities. There are almost as many ways to reach these goals as there are farmers around the world. Yet this is not the case with small scale farmers involved in a mixture of poor agricultural practices. From research that we did on the production, storage and distribtion of seeds, we found out that most farmers thought the "pesticides" would increase the yield. The urban farmers in California simply used designed facilities to grow the crops they wanted and they experienced the yield they expected and gave out some of that yield to the community. Hence it was sustainable. In the Salinas Valley, production was on a large scale and all the aspects of production were taken into consideration. The area is one of the largest agricultural areas in the country. Practically, it is clear that one needs to create more awareness to small scale farmers on the way forward. Furthermore, from the field trips, we can teach them good marketing practices such as selling their products, especially tomatoes and vegetables directly to restaurants in nearby towns and cities to gain a larger share of the consumer food cash. Additionally, with knowledge on agroecology, I can advise the farmers to use flowering cover crops which can fulfil the original purpose as a conservation practice while at the same time providing forage for wild bees and beneficial insects.
I conclude by saying that if small scale farmers in some developing countries want to see the change that they expect, then they must change and the only way they can change is by learning, since there are different ways of doing one thing. And by doing that, they will make profit and improve both their lives and that of their communities. And as Professor Zilberman puts it, "there is nothing wrong in trying new things."
The skills learned from the Environmental Leadership Program cannot be explained with simple words. "It's a come and see program" and exalt the program sponsors, program organizers and staff for their wonderful program.