Water Water Everywhere – GROW Update

Guest post by Janine Woodward – volunteer with Oxfam Bath

Crumbs, what a May and June!

No rain one month, deluges the next. It’s not helped my little plants one bit.

The onions need rain to develop. So even though they are ready to pick, they are still teeny tiny!!

Against my better judgement, I put some tomatoes & beans outside. They didn’t like the cool wet weather after the warmth and protection of the porch. Still, at least we kept some inside – there are beans on our indoor bean plant!

The oddity of the weather and it’s affect on growing was made really clear to me in Zambia. Farmers didn’t know when to plant any more. Sometimes they planted, and the rains came late. So the crops became parched and died. Sometimes they planted and the rains came to early, and too heavy. So the crops got waterlogged and died.

And they don’t have the luxury of a porch for protection. If the weather ‘goes wrong’ – that’s it. Crops & income gone for a year. End of.

GROW highlights that one cause of the broken food system is the changing climate. We must act to help farmers in developing countries cope with this.

And it IS possible for them to adapt – using the resources they already have. It doesn’t take expensive, technical solutions. Crop diversification, green manure, seed banks, methods to improve irrigation – all using local resources to maintain and improve yields.

There are sceptics who challenge the focus on small farmers, claiming it doesn’t aid development, nor will it enable us to feed 9 billion people. They see large industrialised farms as the solution. Big farms = economies of scale = better yields, no?

It’s true – such farms have a role to play. But investing in smallholder agriculture offers greatest potential to increase global agricultural yields in a sustainable way which really supports millions of poor producers and consumers (the world’s hungry population). It will also provide a crucial growth spark to economic development in poor countries – reaping huge long term benefits. You only have to read the wealth of evidence here to see how Oxfam’s experience proves this.

The food system is broken. But working with Oxfam we can fix it, pushing for a focus on & investment in sustainable, resilient agricultural systems for small holding farmers.

If you haven’t already, consider joining the campaign now at www.oxfam.org.uk/system :)

Photos by Janine Woodward

GROW for Food Justice

Guest post by Janine Woodward – volunteer with Oxfam Bath

This winter, I decided to grow.

Not vertically (though being 5 foot 3 I could do with it) but agriculturally, growing my own food.

As a fan of The Good Life, the thought of ‘living off the land’ has always been a bit of a dream. So, when given the opportunity to create two vegetable beds in my partners back garden I jumped at the chance!

And this year, growing food has even more significance.

I recently visited Zambia with Oxfam. Many of the people I met were subsistence farmers. Their work is their land, and they rejoice if it provides them with enough food for their family. We take it for granted that we can visit a shop, at any time of day, and for a relatively small amount, choose a variety of foods to sustain us. And we can always put a little treat in the basket too – the odd chocolate bar or fancy bottle of wine.

The farmers I met didn’t have this luxury. Quite the reverse. Although few were among the 1 billion people who will go to bed tonight hungry, many were part of the 1 billion ‘hidden hungry’. Those who can just afford the food required to live, but lack essential nutrients from their diet, making them more vulnerable to illness & changes in food availability.

What I find difficult to stomach is the fact that at the same time, nearly 1 billion people are chronically obese. There is huge disparity between food availability and consumption for rich and poor. The reasons for this are many, and complex. But it’s quite clear is that the world food system is broken.

Now, growing a tiny quantity of food in my back garden is clearly not going to either fully sustain me or fix the system. But it does make me appreciate how fortunate I am. And thankfully, there is a bigger, better solution!

Oxfam have just launched the campaign GROW.

The aim of GROW is to help us understand why the world food system is broken, and what we can do as individuals and by coming together to fix it.

So, I’m going to carry on GROWing – both my vegetables, and the movement. And I hope you’ll join me!

Visit my blog at  Oxfam Bath to follow my growing adventures.

Photos by Janine Woodward