Fund helps farmers in developing world

The Marshal Papworth Fund provides scholarships to educate agricultural and horticultural students from developing countries. Chairman James Parrish explains more.

Q What are some of the main issues facing farmers in developing countries?

A On a global level, they include climate change, a growing population and lack of food and clean water.

Our students’ experiences in specific countries include in Ghana where more than half of the population is engaged in agriculture and the industry is dominated by aged farmers who use primitive, unproductive practices. Members of the younger generations are no longer attracted to the industry, drawn by the lure of cities to further their education, earn a living and provide financial security for their family.

In Malawi, issues include convincing both profit-oriented larger farms and smallholders of the need to address droughts by becoming responsible for the environment around them through highlighting the problems caused by destroying local forests.

Q What are some of the lessons/principles that farmers in developing countries can learn from those in the UK?

A These are best illustrated by examples – such as one of our demonstration farmer students, Cecilia, from Tanzania. Since returning to her community, using the knowledge she developed here, she has encouraged poultry farmers to adopt a group approach to sharing key skills in breeding, hatching, rearing, healthcare and feeding. She has raised awareness of the benefits of better welfare for poultry through investment in vaccination and veterinary support, furthering disease prevention.

Cecilia has also been responsible for sharing knowledge about – and skills related to – the importance of caring for sows and rearing piglets, focusing on disease prevention through appropriate housing and access to water. Importantly, she has helped farmers within her community identify and access sustainable funding to improve herds, plus has highlighted the fundamentals of forecast planning to meet consumer demand.

Q How much difference can this potentially make to agricultural productivity?

A The skills our students gain and the differences these make to agricultural productivity in their home communities can be very significant.

Take, for example, Isaac Kankam-Boadu, one of our masters students from Northern Ghana, who undertook an MSc in project planning and management. Since graduating, his intervention with the Northern Ghana Food Security Resilience Project has enabled him to help 70,000 poor and vulnerable farmers increase yields by up to 500%. He has also been involved with a food security project supporting more than 10,000 resource-poor rural households improve their food production by increasing crop productivity and incomes in order to provide more security for the future.

Q And presumably their agricultural productivity is directly linked to their ability to survive and prosper?

A Of course. Another student, Philip Tibenderana, achieved his MSc in community and water sanitation, and now works to provide water to rural communities in southwestern Uganda. Each year, Philip helps to improve the lives of more than 22,780 poor people from rural communities through the provision of safe water and sanitation services.

Q How much do UK farmers know about the issues faced by their counterparts in the developing world?

A I’m not sure that many UK farmers truly understand the daily issues farmers in the developing world face. There are many things that we take for granted, such as clean water, the availability – and range – of vaccinations to protect livestock, and machinery to help us improve efficiencies.

However, global issues are having an impact on every agricultural community around the world. UK farmers are only too aware of the urgent action required to address how we feed a burgeoning population for less, while tackling the increased risk of flooding and other consequences of climate change.

Q Is there potentially a two-way flow of information – for instance, can UK farmers learn from them?

A Now more than ever before, UK farmers can learn from our international counterparts, including comparing sustainable practices with regard to fertilisers, learning about seeds and new grain crops such as Teff from Ethiopia, as well as chemicals and operating on a lower cost basis. There are also the opportunities that surround investment within developing counties.

Q How much are farmers around the world alike and what traits in particular do they share?

A The trait that stretches across the entire international farming community is passion – they love what they do. As a community we are very close and through the work of international agricultural societies such as the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth, we are able to share this passion for the good of the industry and community as a whole.

Q How does the Marshal Papworth Fund fit into the equation?

A All of our students are carefully selected to ensure that, upon completion of their studies, the knowledge and skills they have learned are taken back and shared within their local communities for the benefit of fellow countrymen.

Q Who benefits from it?

A Agricultural and horticultural students from developing countries around the world. We have empowered more than 100 students to achieve their dreams and help their home communities through one of our two scholarship programmes. Our masters programme provides education for a one-year MSc or MA at a UK university or college. Or our 10-week short course helps practical students to become demonstration farmers.

Q What can I do to get involved with/support the fund?

AYou can make make a donation, sponsor a student, or work with us to develop a tailor-made support package as part of a corporate social responsibility plan. Please contact Sandra Lauridsen on 01733 363 514 or email Or to make a donation, click here.

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