My post for the ONE Campaign

“Global Citizen Year fellow learns that poor farmers need support” – originally posted on the ONE Campaigns blog here: LINK

Every year, Global Citizen Year chooses a group of young Americans to spend nine months working as apprentices in rural communities all over the world. Mat Davis, a 2009-2010 fellow, talks about his experience working on a farm in Senegal.

Agriculture is a love of mine. I have been gardening on plots of land in inner city Indianapolis for five years.

It’s this love that led to me become a founding fellow for Global Citizen Year . The program helps young Americans gain a global perspective and develop skills to help address the global issues we’ll face in the future. Each fellow has an apprenticeship. Mine was agriculture.

I worked on a small scale farm for Pate Diop in Gorom, Senegal. I saw just how hard it is to grow enough food for one’s family and for the global market. And I saw just how hard these farmers have to work, overcoming technological disadvantages to do their work.

With Pate and his four sons, I watered 500 tomato plants, 300 pepper plants and whatever other plants he needed to make ends meet. The watering cans we used were made from a plastic gas container that was cut in half. A branch was nailed to either side. They weren’t pretty gardening cans from Sears, but they worked. We worked from 7 AM to 10 AM and then took a donkey-drawn cart back to Pate’s house to escape the hot sun. When we pulled up into the front yard, the women in Pate’s family would be waiting to carry the produce off the markets in huge baskets on the top of their heads. One small box would be kept for the family.

But I often felt frustrated at the markets. There were tables lined up and down the street with women selling vegetables and fish, but all the tables and all the food looked exactly the same. Working hard every day to see the people in my community left with only a small box of food and a market where they couldn’t compete was difficult for me. These were things I had heard and read about, but to gain the different perspectives and to actually live the story was powerful.

My experience on Pate’s farm helped me realize that even with a lot of hard work, farmers often fall short—they’re not able to grow enough food or it’s not at the right price to compete. So in the end, food security is really about giving farmers like Pate the capacity to cultivate more from his land and more for the community.

– Mat Davis, Global Citizen Year fellow