Written by Garnett Genuis, MP Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan
My trip to Kenya with Canadian Foodgrains Bank deepened my understanding of the intimate connection between development and farming and allowed me to see the role that local communities play in facilitating their own growth and success.
In times past, most Canadians were farmers. As technology improved, a smaller number of people were able to grow the same amount of food. While farmers maintain an intimate understanding of nature and land stewardship, most of us who live in urban areas don’t have the same connection.
In Kenya, most of the people in the rural areas are small-scale farmers, living in communities that maintain those deep connections to land and to nature. Helping farmers uplift themselves is central to international development in a context where most people are farmers and where local farmers can be supported to increase local food supply. The farmers we met on this trip are smart, hardworking, and innovative. They are uplifting themselves and their families while accessing helpful training available to them. Outside organizations like Canadian Foodgrains Bank are making suggestions and teaching techniques that allow farmers to increase their yields and get fair prices. The short term injection of new knowledge and techniques sets Kenyan farmers up to be self-sufficient and disaster-resistant, to continue the innovation process on their own, and to teach what they have learned to others. These farmers are the heroes of their own story, and Canadians are able to play a valuable supporting role.
Kenyan farmers can learn useful technical knowledge from Canadian organizations, and Canadians can also learn from them. Many African countries have highly communal cultures, emphasizing the importance of strong families and communities uplifting each other. We met farmers who are forming collaborative communities and organizations to share knowledge, innovate together, and pursue collective success. I would like to see Canadian society learn from their emphasis on strong community, prosperity serving community ties, and ongoing connection to land.
The ties that we are building with African farmers and the things we can learn from each other will shape a more prosperous, just, and communally-oriented world for us all.
This story was originally published in the 2023 Spring edition of Breaking Bread. Download or order your copy here.