"Organic is all very well for the privileged, but it could never feed the world." Or so I have been told all my life. 20 years ago, I decided to see for myself, spending six weeks in Sub-Saharan East Africa visiting agronomists, aid agencies, and farms large and small.
I became progressively more depressed by what I saw; trees and ecological diversity were being lost at an alarming rate, soils were being degraded and carbon lost, all to produce low yields and little food security.
Then I visited Timothy Njakasi in Mukono, southern Uganda. Timothy had worked at Riverford as part of his training in sustainable farming, before going home to join a small group of farmers developing complex, multi-canopy cropping systems integrated with livestock (prized as much for their fertility-building waste as their meat, milk or eggs).
Using composting, contoured ditches for water conservation, and mostly perennial crops with small areas of intensive veg cultivation, the farms were ten times more productive than the soil-destroying monocultures or grazed savannah next door. Better still, they required less back-breaking work, and provided more resilience to climate change, improved food security and better prospects for farmers. The best had become brilliant ecologists; their skills were humbling, showing a subtlety lacking in ‘developed’ farming.
I was inspired; organic could feed the world and preserve it. Timothy introduced us to Send a Cow, who spread the same sustainable farming techniques across rural Africa – combining training and technical support with extraordinarily effective social programmes (largely addressing gender inequality).
It is often hard to feel confident that you can make a difference, but I promise their work delivers lasting improvement for families and the environment. With your help, to date we’ve so far raised over £393,000 for Send a Cow.
Until 14 April, every £1 donated to their new Living with Wildlife appeal will be matched by the UK government. A partnership between Send a Cow and the conservation charity Tusk, this project is supporting the people and wildlife of Murchison Falls, Uganda’s oldest and largest national park.
By training families to farm sustainably, they hope to alleviate hunting pressures on the park (home to endangered Rothschild’s giraffes). Visit sendacow.org to learn more, or, for Riverford customers, you can donate by adding a £1 Send a Cow donation to your order.