They Feed Us: A Celebration of Smallholder Farmers

Introduction

In the early months of the year 2020 before the COVID-19 Pandemic, Edgar Imafidon and Babawale Obayanju, two photographers from TellThatStory, took a journey to one of the food baskets in Nigeria- Kano State and made other visits to Enugu State and Benin City. The mission was to find out the impacts of climate change on food production and to ascertain if the claims that Nigerians are hungry were factual or mythical. These photographers made relevant portraits that tell stories of community resilience, nutrition, agroecology, and the critical role of seed and food sovereignty in mitigating climate change.

This journey lends a voice to the people who really feed the world- the traditional Smallholder farmers.

Traditional Smallholder Farmers

Traditional smallholder farmers grow about seventy percent of the world’s food on less than a quarter of the Earth’s available agricultural land. They are called smallholder farmers because they own or farm on small plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops relying almost exclusively on family or manual labor. They make use of available manpower (which is shrinking with mass rural to urban migration) and manual tools to ensure that the world does not go hungry.

Yet many of these farmers are often overlooked, and constantly find their livelihoods threatened by climate change and industrialized agriculture which undermine the biological diversity on which we all depend.

Conclusion

In Nigeria, food is available and in abundance but the access to safe, healthy, and appropriate food fit for our people and their culture is a major cause of hunger in the land. Our indigenous seeds are at risk with the influx of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds into our farms. An example is GM beans which were approved and released by the Nigerian Government in January 2019 into our markets and farms as a possible solution to the hunger crisis.

The truck drivers who move food from one region to another highlighted bad roads as a significant factor that increases the number of hours/days they spend on the road delivering this foodstuff.  The traders the photographers encountered also highlighted the lack of adequate storage facilities as another issue that causes food shortage.

Our women, especially in the Northern region need to be given more space to function with the men at the markets and at the farm as is the case in the southern spaces visited.

Climate change is real and more positive steps need to be taken by the government to help farmers cope with its devastating impacts. It is time our governments moved beyond the promised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as was made in the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) to real actions on the ground.

A short summary of this journey was made into a 5minutes video. Find the video here.