Farmers in Africa have more in common with their Yorkshire counterparts than many may think and deserve British agriculture’s support, according to the regional head of the National Farmers’ Union.
York-based Adam Bedford is one of 12 people preparing to run the London Marathon on April 28 in aid of the Farm Africa charity. Other runners include the farming union’s president and vice-president Minette Batters and Stuart Roberts.
It will be Mr Bedford’s second London Marathon and he has powerful motivation after being part of a group from the NFU who, at the end of last year, visited farmers in Kenya who have benefited from Farm Africa’s work.
“Farmers in the UK and in Africa share a common interest,” he said. “Issues such as climate change, succession and commodity price volatility to name just three.
“The scales and specific contexts might be different, but at the bottom of everything farmers face similar challenges and can learn a lot from each other’s approaches in dealing with them.”
Mr Bedford was in Kenya with others from Yorkshire - Ripponden farmer Rachel Hallos, the NFU’s West Riding county chairman, Robin Asquith, care farm manager for Camphill Village Trust in the North York Moors, and Ruth Wells, member networks manager at York-based higher education academy, Advance HE.
One of the Farm Africa projects they visited was ‘Growing Futures’. Set up in 2016 with funds from Aldi UK, it has helped 446 young farmers in 23 farmer groups launch profitable horticultural businesses. In total, those businesses have sold vegetables worth £230,000, boosting farmers’ incomes by £165,000.
Ms Wells said she too was struck by how the challenges facing UK and Kenyan farmers are so similar, including better co-operation, rural to urban migration of young people and producing products that are demanded by the market.
“The aim of the Growing Futures project is to help mitigate against some of those challenges by supporting young farmers’ move from subsistence agriculture to market-led, teach them about financial planning, increase profit margins and production levels,” Ms Wells said.
Farm Africa has been raising funds to help African farmers since 1985 and it recently launched a new fundraising appeal, ‘Coffee is Life’, to raise more than £170,000 to support projects across eastern Africa.
Donations from the UK public are being matched by the Government. The matched funds will help women in western Uganda make a better living from coffee farming. Coffee is Uganda’s most valuable crop but farmers lack the tools, training and bargaining power to grow enough coffee and sell it for a fair price.
Five of the London Marathon runners, including Mr Bedford, aim to raise a total of £20,000 for the Coffee is Life appeal. To back them, see www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nfumarathon