With all eyes now on Somalia, one Social Entrepreneur, Rachel Zedeck, has been focusing on the systemic causes of food shortage and drought in the greater region, as well as the design and delivery of ‘colonial’ Aid programs for some time. In an August Dowser interview by Rachel Signer, Ms. Zedeck related the following:
“Drought happens every year in this region. Every year there’s a famine. Every year there’s economic loss. This year is particularly bad but it’s not new. It’s like Somalia is a poster child for the aid world now. The real problems are systemic and that’s where solutions need to emerge. We have food surplus in Nakuru, an area four hour drive from the drought area, and we can’t get there because of the roads. This is a systemic problem.”
Ms. Zedeck goes on to cite the inadequate response to cyclical drought (no infrastructure for rain collection), and area conflict, as components of the systemic problem, as well as food importation which undoubtedly alludes to the effects of IMF Structural Adjustment Programs.
In response, and due to her ‘passion for food security’ she founded The Backpack Project, or The Backpack Farm Agricultural Program (BPF). In a nutshell (or in this case, a ‘backpack’ of green agro-tech) BPF, provides farmers with “an all-in-one canvas backpack packaged with all the essential agriculture inputs needed…to standardize both the quality and quantity of agriculture production during an annual growing season.”
See The Backpack Project Video via this link.
The program is geared to ‘smallholder farmers,’ of whom, Kofi Annan said during the 2010 World Food Conference, “improving the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of smallholder farming is the main pathway out of poverty,”and its impact is intended to mirror semi-commercial rates of production.
Farmers pay a small fee to receive training on how best to use the tools. Which would be useful for participants in an area like Somalia, which Ms. Zedeck notes in pastoral, but where there is an interest in learning to farm.
Additionally, BPF has linked with Mercy Corp to provide its companion program KUZA Doctor, which provides growing information to BPF farmers via SMS, such as:
- Crop-specific tips throughout the crop production cycle
- Best soil management and testing recommendations.
- Water Management Guide
- Step-by-step guide on best farming methods on 10 specific crops to increase yields.
The innovation and impact of the BPF initiative is described as follows on its website:
- Provide smallholder farmers access to eco-friendly farming agri-tech inputs and training
- Improve the income of smallholder farmers and rural communities –specifically women, who produce 80% of food reserves in East Africa
- In combination with training and drip irrigation, improve access to and management of water in rural communities especially in arid lands
- Provide greater nutrition to populations suffering from nutritional deficits
- Develop sustainable agriculture value chains capable of supporting local, regional and international marketplaces
- Reduce time in the field to manage and water crops, improve literacy and education of women and the girl child
Yet another example of the private social sector tackling issues- at their root, locally, and outside of regional and international political and institutional influence.
Information and media from the BPF website @:http://www.backpackfarm.com/
Additional reporting from Rachael Signer’s Dowser article @: http://dowser.org/backpack-farms-targeted-solutions-to-help-african-farmers-become-more-resistant-to-drought/
More information on IMF’s SAP programs can be found @:http://www.whirledbank.org/development/sap.html