Kenyan farmers angered by food miles campaigns

Farmers Weekly’s Local Food is Miles Better campaign may have scored a big hit across the UK, but it (and initiatives like it) have been met with anger and dismay in countries like Kenya where vegetable exports are a vital part of the economy.

According to journalist Susie Emmett, who specialises in writing about agriculture in developing countries, small-scale African veg farmers have spent years investing time, effort and money in meeting tough retailer specifications in the UK.

She points out that it’s hypocritical for western countries to accuse small third world producers of contributing to global warming or other environmental problems. Here’s the gist of her argument:

* Farmers in countries like Kenya use hand labour rather than machinery and little artificial fertiliser. So they emit only a fraction of the greenhouse gases of farmers in countries like Britain. 

* Global warming will affect farmers in places like Kenya far more and sooner than growers in temperate regions.

* Profits from export crops are used to pay for education, healthcare and investing in farm infrastructure. Without them, farmers will slide back into subsistence agriculture. Is that what UK farmers and consumers want?

* Air-freighting of food is a relatively small producer of greenhouse gases overall. If UK consumers really want to cut greenhouse gas emissions they would achieve far more by curtailing their long-haul holiday trips and buying fewer energy-hungry plasma TVs, patio heaters and sports cars!

Agree or disagree with these Kenyan farmers’ opinions? Make your point on the Farmer Weekly Forums. You can also read the full article on Kenyan farmers’ objections to food miles campaigns.