Gardening, farming and homesteading are about as local a lifestyle as one can get. Climate zones, geography, preferred practices and the like are the ties that bind at the local level. But they can also insulate us from the global community of smallholder farmers. The United Nations named 2014 the International Year of Family Farming, providing an excellent platform to highlight the importance of family farmers in feeding the world and healing the planet at the same time.
In this new blog series, I would like to introduce you to farmers from around the world. Through our work at Heifer International, we are more fortunate than most to meet and learn about farmers from as nearby as the Arkansas Delta region to as far off as the Himalayas in Nepal. My hope is that you will find commonalities between their lives and your own, while celebrating the differences that are the hallmark of the human experience.
Earlier this month Heifer’s Vice President of Africa Programs Elizabeth Bintliff visited Emma Navlungo and her husband, Edward Serunjogi in Luwero district, Uganda. On a quarter-acre of land, the family of seven maintains kitchen gardens, chickens, dairy cows, rabbits, fish and pigs. By attending trainings given by Heifer and other organizations, they have learned to be extremely efficient, managing an intensive and integrated small farm on less land than the average lot size for a single-family home in the United States.
Emma and Edward are participants in the Uganda Domestic Biogas Programme, implemented by Heifer International and partners. The family has a biogas unit, which allows them to convert manure from their livestock, as well as crop waste, into fuel for cooking and lighting. There are a myriad of benefits to using biogas, including saving money on energy costs, preserving the environment, and reducing the health risks associated with cooking with charcoal (the primary source of fuel for much of rural Ugandans). Bio-slurry, a nutrient-rich byproduct of the biogas digester, has reduced the family’s spending on animal feed and fertilizer by 50 percent, as the slurry is an excellent garden fertilizer, increasing crop yields and enriching fish and animal feed.
It may be difficult to place yourself in their shoes: Emma and Edward live a world away, and they have overcome the daily struggle of feeding their family. But they are a true testament that, even on the most meager plot of land, smallholder farmers are capable of productive, environmentally friendly agriculture, if provided the training and tools they need to get started.
Video and production by Olivier Asselin Photography, courtesy of Heifer International
Photo courtesy Heifer International: Heifer Vice President for Africa Program Elizabeth Bintliff (left) with farmer Emma Navlungo