“If i could do it again?”

A Herd boy. Notice the loose earth. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

I come from farming stock but i am not a farmer, not yet, but i know someday am going to venture into it. My late grandfather went into farming after being discharged from the army at the end of ww2. He had a good hand at it and succeeded quite well, receiving certificates of recognition for it. He used the income to build a two-storey house and went on to marry several wives. He put more land under farming and enlarged his acreage and reaped great profits out of the venture. He used his profits to buy a truck with which he ferried his produce to the market. He did quite well, so much in fact that he was able to construct a church and help build a school named in his honor. He sired over 40 kids. He stayed a farmer for the rest of his life. That was a long time ago. Today’s farmers are dealing with extreme weather. In the best of times, farming is not for the faint of heart. It is at best, grim business and i don’t mean to be scary but let’s face it how many people do you know who will drop seeds in the ground, wait for them to sprout and come back several times to weed, spray, spray again, then wait for the harvest? That is the normal cycle of things if you are lucky and there is no drought or too much precipitation. Farming revolves around being in sync with the seasons, planting early, if the farmer misses his cue, the season is lost. Farming is a waiting game. The farmer knows it and the farmer must be patient. There are crops such as coffee which won’t be ready until a couple of years after planting. It is risky, long-term back-breaking business being a farmer. There is also no guarantee that one will realize profits, there are people who will be waiting to cheat you, give you bad prices. Sometimes the quality is poor and so you are forced to sell just to break even. Not all are cut out to be farmers. Successful farmers are hard, resilient men.

Farmers are the world’s native businessmen, all other enterprises are secondary to farming (and that is my opinion). Let me explain it this way: if  i am a cattle breeder and i also have my own abattoir, that means that i slaughter the cattle, and do the skinning and treatment of the hides. If i decide to deal with the by-products of meat slaughter, the hides, i may choose to employ people who know all about curing and tanning or i may decide to strictly deal with slaughter and give the hides business to a specialist in the field. It depends on me if i want to do all that work and get my profits. I may simply sell the meat and dispose of the hides as i see fit. So there is all this work that is associated with the meat industry, it is a chain which begins with me as the stock breeder and carries forward to the consumer. There are many steps in-between and many skills to be put to use. There are thousands of people employed in the shoe industry, belts, upholstery, wallets, furniture industry, clothing industry you name it. What this amounts to is that i make it possible for these jobs to continue existing if i choose to stay in business. That is a good thing don’t you think? Alright, now when you think of it that way, it becomes easier to understand why i say that the farmer is the native businessman. It then becomes necessary to inquire why the farmer’s welfare is not a priority to governments in poorly-developed parts of the world.

Many people in the developing world depend on farming, in my own country of Uganda, the figure is 80%. There are however, distinctions in this business. In that percentage, a big number is engaged in small-scale, peasant or primitive production, which means that there is underutilization of land. Why do i say this? I say this because with primitive labor a farmer can only produce so much. With a tractor, the same piece of land he works in a month can be worked in a fraction of a day. But being a small-scale farmer one cannot justify renting it. Also, such a farmer has no access to credit. He also has no insurance against crop failure. Therefore when a drought occurs, he can neither feed his family nor pay his debts. Now with the change in weather patterns, it is predicted that such events will occur with greater frequency. When i look at where we are going and with the uncertainties that the future holds, the only solution remaining for small-scale farmers is to join co-operative societies whereby they have access to legal advice, loans, markets and other forms of help. In times past, we used to have them and of late some of them have been revived. These are the kinds of efforts we need to make in order to ensure food security as the world prepares to face more adverse weather.