Farmer's Diary: Poor people are left behind
Posted Wednesday, March 20 2013 at 00:00
In an effort to alleviate poverty and to enhance agricultural production, the government and its development partners have introduced farming technologies over the years.
These have been in form of crop irrigation devices and methods or in form of equipment like grass cutting machines or spray pumps. In some cases, it has been improved crop varieties or animal breeds.
While such strategies are believed to be the faster route to increased agricultural production and poverty reduction, the irony is that they have not sieved through to the very people they are aimed at—the poor.
It is difficult to trust poor people and most of them have no access to credit. It is easier for a financial institution to lend money to a rich farmer than to a poor struggling peasant.
Most of them lack formal education and they take long to appreciate the advantages of new innovations or to conceptualise the causes of crop diseases.
They take longer, for example, to realise that adaptation of improved seed has a positive impact on yields and incomes. The few who have accepted that improved seeds can boost yields simply cannot afford them because they are poor. Since they are poor, they are less likely to take risks.
Rich vs poor
A study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Development (January 2013) reported that researchers collected data from 600 randomly selected smallholder farmers on upland, low land and irrigated rice farms across Nigeria.
It emerged that wealthier households are more likely to adopt improved rice varieties than their counterparts.
A Friesian cow is known to produce much more milk than a local cow but most poor farmers consider it risky to keep the exotic one because they are not in a position to call in a vet doctor now and again when the animal shows signs of illness.
Cloned Robusta coffee varieties are well known for their higher yields but most poor farmers have stuck to the traditional and less productive Robusta coffee varieties. The poor will not join a village farmers’ group because they cannot afford the registration fees or the regular financial obligations that such groups require.