Sometimes you can win by losing.
That’s what happened to me a little more than four years ago, when I vied to become AGCO Africa Ambassador. I lost that competition to my fellow Zimbabwean, Nyasha Mudukuti.
It was a pleasure to finish behind such a phenomenal young lady. Nyasha has become a champion of technology for African farmers.
She also put me on a path to an incredible honor: I’m the 2020 recipient of the Kleckner Award, sponsored by the Global Farmer Network.
Named for the late Dean Kleckner, a prominent American farmer, the award seeks to recognize a farmer who shares Kleckner’s belief in the power of trade and technology to support agriculture and feed the world. And, that a farmer’s voice matters.
I’m the 14th annual recipient, following winners from India, Mexico, the Philippines, Argentina, Ireland, Kenya, and elsewhere.
It wouldn’t have happened without Nyasha. When she became AGCO Africa Ambassador, she was already a part of the Global Farmer Network, a nonprofit group whose mission statement calls for amplifying the voice of farmers “in promoting trade, technology, sustainable farming, economic growth, and food security.”
She nominated me for membership in the Global Farmer Network and I was accepted. Since then, the group has played a pivotal role in my career. I’ve met farmers from around the world and we’ve shared stories of struggle and opportunity. We communicate in person as well as on social media.
These farmers across borders are now my friends—and today I’m a better farmer because of what I’ve learned from them. In just a few short years, I feel like I’ve obtained generations of knowledge.
I’ve even attended a ceremony in Iowa for a previous Kleckner Award recipient. The event was immaculate. I was in awe of everything, from the dinner to the speakers. The winner that year was Maria Giraudo, a leader for no-till farming practices in Argentina. As an innovator and a woman who believes in technology and conservation, she was a source of personal inspiration.
It never occurred to me that one day I might follow her in receiving the award.
I’m so grateful for what has happened—and Nyasha’s support of me is a perfect example of how the Global Farmer Network helps farmers promote each other. From the start, she has been my advocate as well as an advocate for farmers who are often left out of conversations about agriculture. She understands the problems that confront smallholders in rural areas and has called for science-based solutions in venues ranging from the Dirt to Dinner website to the Wall Street Journal.
I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Her example is a reminder of what can happen when farmers tell their stories. The same is true with Patience Koku, a Nigerian farmer who won the Kleckner Award last year. She used the occasion to explain why farmers—and especially African farmers—need access to tools such as improved seeds and crop-protection products. “Always let the farmer have a voice,” she has written.
I couldn’t agree more. Farmers need to have their voices heard.
Yet stories like Nyasha and Patience’s—and mine—can be rare in the debates that surround agriculture and food security. We’re too far away from the halls of power and too busy on our farms to travel there very often. But we are essential to food security. The voice of farmers is the voice of change.
The Global Farmer Network ensures that we have a platform and a megaphone. It seeks out farmers who have something to say, develops their talent, and helps us tell the truth about food security from the viewpoint of the people who actually grow the food.
When we cultivate voices, we begin to understand the real truth behind agriculture from a food producer.
That’s what I’ve tried to do as a member of the Global Farmer Network. I’ve written columns on farming in the time of coronavirus and its lockdowns, surviving a natural disaster, why science and technology matter to smallholder farmers like me, the power of women who farm, and how technology can improve African food security.
I wouldn’t enjoy this chance but for Nyasha’s encouragement, Patience’s mentoring, and the Global Farmer Network’s commitment.
They help every farmer win.
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