Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh: Young women of color have a unique perspective that should be valued, and we deserve a seat at the table

Meet WANDA Woman Bathsheba Bryant-Tarpeh, M.A., a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research at Howard University, specializing in Public Policy and Development.

Supported by the USAID Feed the Future program and motivated by her desire to advance the well-being of communities within the black diaspora, Bathsheba performed her six-month dissertation fieldwork in northern Ghana where she focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness.

Despite rural African women being put forward as the main beneficiaries of policy changes that underwrite agrarian transformation, women are often left most vulnerable when commercial agri-business interests are put above the interests of smallholder farmers.

Bathsheba worked directly with local farmers, both men, and women, to provide strategies to maximize their productivity. 

 


What are you studying at Howard University?

 

I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of African Studies and Research.  My specialization is Public Policy and Development.

Why do you think this area of study is crucial to the development of your country and the African continent as a whole?

 

As an African American, I believe strongly in collaborating and forging relationships, networks, and organizational and professional work in helping to advance the lives of all peoples of African descent within the diaspora and on the African continent.

As the world continues to become more integrated, it is important that national development policies and international agendas are designed for the benefit of people on the continent. The Diaspora can play a critical role in the development of the continent and we must see this as a collective challenge.

As Black people, we cannot be fully liberated until we ensure our fellow sisters and brothers are free, from the United States to the continent, to Asia and Europe and the Caribbean. Learning from each other and building coalitions whether through business, non-profits, educational institutions, is a key strategy in the era of globalization.

Tell us about the project you worked on in Ghana. 

 

I was a U.S. Borlaug Global Food Security Fellow, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Leadership Program.  As a U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Ghana, I was provided financial and institutional support for my six-month dissertation fieldwork.

I am really interested in how the advanced global economy and international policies impact the livelihoods of rural, agrarian communities, especially for women and their families.  This is an incredibly important topic because women play such a significant role in providing food and managing the nutritional needs of her family.

My project focused on the gender implications of land-use change as a result of large-scale commercial agribusiness. I conducted a focused ethnographic case study on Dagomba communities in northern Ghana that were affected by the biofuel industry collapse in the country.

I am really interested in bringing the experiences of the women and men to the fore and how they are adapting to changes in their environment and the implications on their food and nutrition security.   

Often times during agrarian transformation, women are more vulnerable to losing access to land within societies that are already discriminatory against women with respect to land-use rights.  Additionally, the large-scale agribusiness, in this case, was destructive to the environment, damaged the soils through use of harsh chemicals and pesticides, and deforested vital trees like the Shea tree and Dawa Dawa tree.

These trees are significant culturally and also economically and nutritionally as products derived from these trees are a great source of income for women and provide nutritional and medicinal benefits to the communities in which I worked.

What did your experience in Ghana teach you? 

Being in Ghana was my first time on the African Continent.  As a woman of African descent, being in Ghana was one of the most exciting, meaningful, and transformative experiences of my life.

The beauty of the country and the warmth and hospitality of Ghanaians and the friendships I made was such an incredible part of my time in Ghana.  Visiting Cape Coast and Elmina Slave Castles and the Pikworo Slave Camp in the Upper East Region, near Burkina Faso allowed me to learn about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the African context and it helped me connect the dots, so to speak, about our history and was one of the most memorable parts of my trip.

On a personal level, it made me want even more to discover my roots through genetic testing.

Academically, through my collaboration with other students and researchers in the country and most importantly, my work in the villages, I learned that I truly want to work in the arena of helping to improve the lives and welfare of vulnerable communities.

What intrigues you the most about the people you have met and supported through your work?

 

What intrigues me most about the community members in the villages in which I worked was the sincere level of gratitude shown toward me.

The communities were very much aware of their challenges and were so open to sharing their experiences with me and together we devised ways to improve their livelihoods in the short-term through creating farmer’s groups.

This was not an initial plan but evolved, as a response to community needs. I was able to provide informational sessions to communities, both women and men’s groups, on how to register their farming groups and provided strategies to maximize their productivity, how to get technical training from the local agricultural extension and gain support from the local assemblies for community needs.

Peggy Moele proves that Aquaponics is an innovative way to breed organic food for African communities

56-year-old Peggy Moele is one of the few women in South Africa practicing aquaponics and aquaculture-agriculture in her 10 hector veg and fisheries farm.

The new system of aquaponics and aquaculture has helped Peggy win awards and getting much recognition and a helping hand from the Department of Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in her country, South Africa.

She was one of the few women of a group of farmers funded to go on an excursion tour and workshop in chines province to learn about the modern solutions to organic farming and fisheries in early 2017.  

Khethiwe Mndawe interviewed Peggy Moela after receiving her award as woman farmer of the year in her municipality and nomination nationally at the Woman in agriculture awards 2017.

Peggy was born and raised in rural Bushbuckridge, growing up with values that depend on the land farming to create sustainable solutions for the community to never go hungry.

As a young woman growing up in the nomadic homelands, the poverty of the families around her always touch her to work towards how she can bring solutions for other families and greater way of making a living. 

“I started out running a catering business, unable to find work in my area yet seeing the poverty and lots of lands always draw me to agriculture I came from a poor background and I’ve always see the  challenges and need of the people in my community and it has always been a wish of mine to create employment” said Peggy

Running Jubilee farms with her son they had decided that they wanted to go into fisheries and explored those possibilities after a visit for an official from the department of agriculture, in her province who expanded their knowledge and supported then in kick-starting building their first pond.

After having built over 10 ponds and growing they started with 360 Tapia fish from Mozambique practice and  Aqua phonic and aquaculture fish farming and organic veg farming and their journey in China studying the different options toward organic farming and fisheries.

Mrs. Peggy Moele got her first recognition  after winning as the female entrepreneur farmer of the year 2016, she was selected as the top female in agriculture in Bushbuckridge again in 2017 and awarded at the Provincial agriculture female awards by the minister of Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 2017 and nominated in the nationals for her unique and developing farming business in her 10 hector farm.

A system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

With pigs and cows that she has bread over the years, she had discovered with her son the proactive of aquaculture, using excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the same pond water, increasing toxicity.

“With the aquaponics system, we use the water from an aquaculture system which we feed to a hydroponic system. The by-products are broken down by nitrifying bacteria into nitrites and subsequently into nitrates, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system”.

“We have been doing most of the work ourselves in putting these systems together and they have produced many results and  accelerate the  vision or organic farms and fisheries for the community and working toward commercial  supply.” Said, her son, Boka Moele, Manager of the Jubilee farm

“Seeing that I came from elders who always ventured into farming, feeding the communities and sustaining themselves through farming. It was easy for me to decide to go into farming. I took all my profits and saving from my catering business, and in 2011 I approached the chiefs in my village area and bought about 10 hectares of land” said Peggy Moele

They started to use 6 hectors of the land and cleared, to begin seasonal crop farming. Things were very difficult in the beginning, I couldn’t afford any workers, those that worked for me, I would offer them and their families groceries and vegetable to sustain them as we were struggling and still growing.  

“After the department had heard about my farm in Bushbuckridge, they came to view our farm our progress and to hear what challenges we were facing.  The official then introduced us to aquaculture and fisheries, he showed us how to build our first pond and ever since we have built much more on our own to cater for our fisheries business. We have since been breading the Mozambique Tilapia fish. Initially, we started with 360 fishes in 2013 and we are amazed at how much the fishes continue to grow and multiply. We have since been having a good relationship with the DPT of agriculture and they have been very good to us in assisting us and I am so grateful” said Mrs. Peggy Moele

Today we have close to 20 ponds in counting, a good irrigation system and they have been adding their keep of cows and pigs. The farm sustains itself with the season veg crops they farm and they have opened not to various student and agriculture researcher to use and practice form.

“We are so proud of her and we believe she is the best representative of women youth farmers. We hope form today onwards mayflies will follow her. It is inspiring to see our women in mud and surrounded by flies other that plastic hair and makeup  because we admire  that when they touch the land they subdue and multiply its uses to feed the nation and with this they can lead the men working with the land and producing form it to a point of  economic contribution” said Minister of Agriculture and rural development and affairs in the Mpumalanga province, Mr. Vusi Shongwe

They have hired a few young people and families in her surrounding communities, who work and contribute to the development and economic transformation of sustainable farm in the Mpumalanga province that is going commercial and exploring n bigger markets. They also produce mangoes, tomatoes, banana and popos, spinach.

“She is one of the women who represent the backbone of development of rural and national economies. Their exact contribution in terms of magnitude and nature remain difficult to assess due to the variations in different regions. Evidence shows that through contributions like her in her area and marginal participation in agriculture and fisheries, they make significant contributions to food security and economic development of countries all over the world.” said the minister of agriculture Mr. Senzeni Zokwana

“There is a need to invest in female farmers and we as three South African government have son what great breakthrough and community employment come through if we empower these women like Peggy,” he continued.


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Nkwah Azinwi Ngum: Our food choices are very important for a healthier life

Nkwah Azinwi Ngum has an MSc in Rural Economics and Agri-Food from the University of Yaoundé II Soa, Cameroon. She is a Cameroon Human Rights Fellow and a Cameroon Women’s Scholarship fellow. She was trained by the Israel’s Agency for International Development Corporation – MASHAV- under a course ‘Agribusiness, a tool for the empowerment of rural women’ in Israel.

Currently she serves as the Coordinator of the Cameroon Women’s Scholarship Alumni Association. She is also one of the World Council of Churches youth ambassadors in Africa; and has completed an Eco-school course on Water, Food and Climate Justice in Malawi. 

 She recently founded an organisation “Save The Future”, which aims to empower communities and young people to overcome development challenges. The organisations primary focus  is to equip young people with the necessary sustainable agriculture skills, as a means to curb  poverty and food insecurity.

 

People should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being Click To Tweet

Nkwah Azinwi Ngum

 

Nkwah, to what extent is food security guaranteed, if one is growing their own crops?

We need to know the basic definition of food security before we can clearly understand this question.

Food security in its most basic definition means: ensuring that everyone can access the amount of healthy, nutritious foods they need to live. However it also indicates that people should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being.

Growing your own food is one way you can make sure your family always has an ample supply of fruits and vegetables and other food crops. We should note that growing your own food does not necessarily mean you are food secure. But, it reduces the resources you would spend on say, vegetables, and these resources could be channeled to other food crops that cannot be grown in the garden, hence contributing to food security.

 

You have been raising awareness of food security on social media, how has this been received by your target audience?

Using social media to raise awareness on the dangers of food insecurity and how we can cope or avoid the situation has been a little challenging. People still do not see this a challenge, but it is a situation whose consequences have triple effects – individual, family and economy.

Notwithstanding challenges, from the reactions I have received, attitudes are changing; many people are beginning to gain interest in the subject and are trying to curb the situation by growing their own food.

I will also like to note that, aside from social media, I am educating children in orphanages and schools on sustainable food. For the past four months, I, together with my friend, Ndeby Jarreth Therese (Co-Founder of Save The Future),  have been able to reach about 200, 9-17 year old young people.

From time to time, we call back to check the progress they are making in maintaining the gardens and also whether their feeding habits are changing. We are also hoping to increase the beneficiaries of this project to 2000 by the end of this year.

 

Children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables. Click To Tweet

 

Nkwah Azinwi Ngum

 

What’s your advice on how we can actually convince our kids to have healthy eating habits?

Kids are more open to learning new cultures and attitudes than adults. One trick is introducing these veggies in their diet, whether frozen or dried, and  being diverse in the colors (use different colors so that they can find the food attractive).

Alternatively, we can get kids to eat healthily by letting them assist in growing the food they eat. Create a home garden (no matter the size) and let your kids help out in the garden. Let them grow their favorite vegetables. During which time, you can teach them the benefits of veggies and fruits. Research has shown that children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables.

Aside from home, pre-schools and primary schools can also contribute in grooming kids in healthy nutrition by using school gardens. Kids interact and learn from their peers. Therefore, school is one of the main social contexts where agricultural and food related practices, attitudes and other skills can be developed and shaped.

What are some of the healthiest foods that you recommend us to take daily?

Our food choices are very important for a healthy life. For a balanced diet we need to eat fruits and vegetables, protein, grain products and dairy foods. However, we need to know which food is vital on a daily basis and which are not.

I would recommend fruits and veggies as the healthiest food for our daily consumption. We have to encourage and inculcate the habit of eating fruits and vegetables daily. One way of doing this is by growing our own veggies like okra, lettuce, amaranth, cucumber etc.

 

You are also encouraging entrepreneurial skills so that people can produce more and sell excess. When one has taken farming to the business level is there anything they have to do differently?

Many people see farming as a way of life, but today the concept is changing, especially among young people.

If we want to consider our farming as a business; we need to treat it like another business venture. We need to carry out feasibility studies on the different stakeholders already involved in this line of business and create a business plan.

However, for the young people I am working with, the basic idea is to introduce them into the world of entrepreneurship and the methods of how they can develop interest in agriculture.

 

Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality - Nkwah Azinwi Ngum Click To Tweet

 

What do you think about using fertilizers and other chemicals on our crops?  Does that have any effects on our systems?

Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality. Most fertilizers contain the same basic materials: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and sometimes other nutrients, like zinc, needed for healthy plant growth.

Fertilisers that are designed to kill or prevent weeds are most damaging to our health, as they are known to be the leading cause of cancer. In addition to that, fertilisers can cause water and soil pollution which can lead to other diseases.

We therefore need to use fertilisers mindfully, in order to mitigate the negative effects. It is for these reasons that I strongly advise the use of organic fertilizers. I encourage people to make their own organic fertilizer by simply recycling their organic waste at home. This does not only increase our crop yields but also ensures healthier veggies and saves money.


 Have you ever created your own vegetable garden for business purposes?

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