The other day, I received a reminder from Burwinkel Farms about the “yummy fruits and vegetables” still available for the summer season. Burwinkel operates a stand around the corner from my home and they specialize in sweet corn!!
By the time I got the message though, it was late and darkness was soon descending. Burwinkel’s stand would be packed up and long gone for the day. So I visited the website instead.
Burwinkel’s is a small family-run farm in Ohio. They have been around since the time of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. But even their vast experience cannot spare them from the difficulties weather brings their way. As Burwinkel’s says: “We do our best but mother nature does not always cooperate making it difficult at times as a small family farm.”
These are words shared by farmers across the globe. Whether it’s in Ohio or far away in Haiti or Afghanistan, the small farmers face challenges sometimes beyond their control. Drought may hit, or in the case of Pakistan, floods can destroy crops and ruin the land.
There is a battle now ongoing in Pakistan to reach at least 6 million flood victims with food aid. Following this will be another struggle to rebuild the agriculture devastated by the flooding. In some countries, like Pakistan again, farmers face the risk of natural disasters coupled with armed conflict.
Even when relative calm is present, the small farmers in developing countries need a great deal of help to jump start their operation. This is a predominant theme that is part of the Roadmap to End Global Hunger.
The Food and Agricultural Organization’s Director-General Jacques Diouf says: “Small-scale farmers need access to high-quality seeds, fertilizers, feed and technologies to be able to boost productivity and production. And their governments need economic and policy tools to ensure that their countries’ agriculture sectors are both more productive and more resilient in the face of crises.”
In addition, whatever food farmers are able to produce has to be stored properly. The World Food Programme (WFP) says: “Many smallholder farmers lose a significant percentage of their produce due to poor storage facilities and poor storage techniques. Crops rot or are stolen.” WFP helps farmers to improve storage facilities through the Purchase for Progress initiative.
The more support the farmer receives, the better for the whole community and country. The farmer can begin to become the supplier for local food aid programs. Every country, for instance, needs to have a national school lunch program to fight child hunger and poverty. Small farms can play their role.
The World Food Programme announced a $2 million donation from Brazil to supply the school feeding program in Haiti with locally produced food. This is part of a strategy to help the small farmer in Haiti while strengthening the national school lunch program.
WFP is currently feeding Haitian kids in summer feeding programs. When school starts again, they plan to reach 800,000 Haitian children and with the Brazil donation, more of that food will be coming from small farmers within the country. Kids will receive the nutrition they need to grow and prosper during their education. Local farmers can expand their own business and be uplifted from poverty.
School gardens also play an increasing role in supporting school feeding, and provide an educational tool for the whole community about agriculture. Molly Slotznick of WFP reports: “In Liberia, to accompany the school feeding activities, WFP has, with the support of the EU Food Facility, established school gardens that are managed by the Parent/Teacher Associations. The food from the gardens supplements the normal school feeding rations, and it also provides a site for parents, teachers, and students to learn about nutrition and gardening practices.”
When the small farmer prospers, communities, children and others do as well. Yummy fruits and vegetables do more than just taste good.