Importance of agriculture underlined on IFA trip to Africa

Agriculture’s vital role in eradicating poverty and promoting economic growth in Africa is being witnessed in person by Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy.

The president is currently on a week-long visit to the continent with the IFA’s chosen charity partner Self Help Africa.

Healy travelled to Kenya and Uganda with Self Help Africa CEO Ray Jordan on Sunday (November 18) on a fact-finding trip.

This visit will include meetings with farmers’ groups and associations, and agri-businesses that are working with the Irish development organisation to strengthen agriculture and market access for farmers in the two countries.

During the trip, the IFA president will meet with his counterpart at the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA), as well as representatives of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI).

Irish farming links

The strong links that Irish farmers have with Self Help Africa will also be to the fore with Healy expected to visit communities in Ethiopia that benefited from some of the first activities that the charity carried out in Africa with support from the Irish farming community.

Self Help Africa was created in the immediate aftermath of the Ethiopian Famine of 1984/5 to deliver long-term solutions to the problem of hunger and extreme poverty in the region.

The IFA supported the shipment and distribution of 2,000t of Cara Donegal seed potatoes to famine-affected communities in Ethiopia – one of the first major projects carried out by the Self Help.

That initiative and others were spearheaded by former IFA president, the late Joe Rea, and was followed in the late 1980s with support for programmes of irrigated horticultural production promoted by Self Help Africa in the Meki and Marako regions of southern Ethiopia.

During his trip, Healy will meet with representatives of the Meki Batu Co-Operative Union, a now 14,000-strong horticultural co-operative that traces its origins back to that time in the late 80s.

Co-op

Today, Meki Batu has its own processing, packing and transportation systems, sells fruit and vegetables in regional and international markets, and is one of the main suppliers of vegetables on the long-haul flights of the country’s national airline.

The IFA president will also meet with representatives of a Self Help Africa-run social enterprise that is sourcing markets for tens of thousands of farmers in Kenya, and is paying at the time of delivery using mobile money transfers.