A Student Development Experience in a Development Context

Opposite Ends of the Food Security Spectrum

Farmer field school

Yesterday (May 17) we learned about CPAR’s Farmers Field School (FFS) program and the practise of conservation agriculture. Conservation agriculture is a method of farming/crop production that is quite useful in relatively dry regions where irrigation is impossible or too expensive. Conservation agriculture tries to get the most of the little rain that does fall and promotes minimum tillage, the use of cover crops, intercropping (companion planting), and biological pest management. CPAR has brought the method into the fields in rural Tz by explaining the benefits (increased yield, less expense, among others) it has for communities, households and environments. Once farmers grasp the concepts they are encouraged to experiment with different practises and patterns and make decisions about future farming initiatives.

One central concept to the FFS program is food security. Food security refers to access to adequate food sources (including a reserve or back-up/emergency supply) that are safe for both human health and the natural environment, most commonly on the community level (but household or societal levels just as well). The food sources must also be sustainable, so not to undermine the ability of future generations to achieve food security.

It is important to recognize that food security is a global issue. It may seem more applicable to a country like Tz where access to adequate food sources is a real danger. But in Canada food security is just as hot an issue. Canadians might enjoy an abundance of food supply, but the safety, level of nutrition, environmental impact, and sustainability of our food production and consumption systems is out of touch with the needs of communities in Canada.

As we walked through the fields in and around Karatu yesterday, it kept occurring to me that many of the same issues face both Canada and Tanzania, only from different angles. The first FFS community that we visited yesterday was called Umoja, or “Unity” in English. It was very inspiring to see a united food strategy. I think that food unity is a phenomenon that is growing in Canada and the results are inspiring there too (respect to the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative and others like it around the country). Keep up the good work, wherever you are!

Scott

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4 responses

  1. Ken Y.

    very interesting article Scott, and very well written too.

    Thanks!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm

  2. Lauren Howard

    Loving the blog posts so far you guys!

    (Especially the first night/first morning stuff; it’s a crazy feeling and I remember it well!!)

    Thanks for bringing attention to CPAR’s FFS and drawing the food security connection between Tanzania and Canada (and the rest of the world!). I’m glad this group of service learners are also recognizing how important it is to highlight this issue and engage with the local farmers in Tanzania (TAN-zan-ia…not tan-ZA-nia) 🙂

    -Lauren

    May 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

  3. Great stuff, Scott. Looks like you are having a great experience in TZ. For interest’s sake, you might want to take a look at the critiques of the concept of food security being put forward by organizations like Via Campesina, which prefer the idea of “food sovereignty” because of the way food security is being operationalized at the policy level. Keep up the great commentary!

    May 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm

  4. Hi Scott,

    Great to see that you have now had a close-up look at CPAR’s Farmers First program and the Farmer Field School approach. It is fascinating what is happening on the ground! To learn more about conservation agriculture, check out CPAR’s site on the Farmers First program: http://www.puttingfarmersfirst.ca .. Safe travels!

    Kevin

    May 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm

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