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

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.

Project website

https://environment.leeds.ac.uk/sustainable-food-research-spotlight/doc/empowering-african-farmers-sustainable-future