Farmers don’t respond well to being told what to do; especially if those doing the telling are outsiders with no demonstrable understanding of their farm. What brings about change is seeing good crops grown by somebody like them. In my early days of veg growing, I was repeatedly told that organic farming “would never feed the world”. I wanted to see for myself, so I spent two months in East Africa, visiting farming friends and a few charities in Kenya. It was a pretty depressing trip, where few aid interventions had lasting effect and sometimes had the unintended consequence of perpetuating dependency.
My final visit was to Timothy Njakasi in Uganda. He had worked at Riverford as part of his training, before returning home to develop his own smallholding. It was extraordinarily productive and sustainable; relying on local materials and local skills. For several years we supported him, helping him turn his farm (flatteringly named Kasenge Riverford) into a training institute. Recently he has worked with the charity Send a Cow, which trains farmers, mostly women, in small scale sustainable farming using peer farmer training. They accept the importance of long term support and social change; helping people to help themselves, working through farmers they can relate to.
Riverford has committed to raising £75,000 to support a similar Send a Cow project in war-torn Northern Uganda. We have raised funds by selling used gardening fleece, a banana ‘tax’, running marathons etc and you can now add a £1 donation to your order on our website, with the chance to win a year’s worth of veg thrown in. Working on the assumption that cooks are like farmers (more easily influenced by friends and colleagues than by companies and institutions) we are hoping you will know someone who should be getting a vegbox. If you manage to persuade them, we will donate £20 to this project. You could call it chugging (charity mugging), but I promise that every penny will be spent on this fantastic project. It’s win win.