How farmers are facing the crisis

Claudia Jordan
Russia's war against Ukraine and its impact on food, energy and fertiliser prices is worrying farmers all over the world. Young farmers, farmer organisations and politicians from Kenya, Chad and Ukraine tell their stories and what keeps them in agriculture.



Farmers from different regions report how they have fared since the outbreak of the war of aggression and what gives them strength. ©reinout_dujardin1

By Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is a globally active provider of international cooperation for sustainable development. It has more than 50 years of experience in a wide range of fields.  

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Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Daniel Mwendah M'Mailutha is the director of the Kenya National Farmers Federation (KENAFF). ©GIZ, 2023

Daniel Mwendah M'Mailutha reports that there has not been such a crisis in Kenya for decades. The Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya National Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF) is himself a dairy farmer. Some of his colleagues had to close their farms – the costs for production had become too high. Pastoralists lost all their animals due to droughts and the additional famine, mainly in the northeast of the country. Poultry and pig farmers have closed their farms because they could no longer bear the 200 to 300 percent increase in costs. "The suffering has been immense and it continues," he says. Together with the government, KENAFF is looking for ways at local and national level to stabilize prices, especially for agricultural goods. In addition, the organisation provides farmers with training in business development, helps them negotiate prices and provides financial support for agricultural goods such as fertilisers.


The prices of food and agricultural goods had already risen before Russia's war against Ukraine. But the war drove up prices and thus exacerbated the food crisis. One person who has experiences the war first-hand is the young farmer and agronomist Oleh Zahorodnii. The 24-year-old farmer has his farm in the north of Ukraine, in an area, where no fighting is currently taking place. But he is in contact with those farmers who live in the war zones. "There are rocket hits and bombardments there every day. Another problem is mines lying in the fields. It takes a lot of money, time and personnel to remove them," says the farmer. He himself grows sunflowers, wheat and soybeans on his farm. But also medicinal plants as purple coneflower and common marshmallow are included.


Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Oleh Zahorodnii is a young farmer and agronomist in northern Ukraine. ©GIZ, 2023

As an agronomist, he also works for a seed company in the center of the country. They work together with small farmers and farmers with up to 500,000 hectares of land.
Logistics and transportation have become complicated and expensive, as have fertilisers and other materials. "It would be easier to say what farmers don't need," says Mykola Solskyi, Ukraine's Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food. Germany was already doing a lot at all levels for the population of Ukraine, he acknowledges, for example by donating electricity generators. At the same time, lower prices for the transport of grain and sufficient credit are important for farmers. "Above all, however, this war must end," says the minister.

"The farmers want to work and they do it where they can," stresses Oleh Zahorodnii. "They are incredible, even the young women farmers are incredibly strong."


And he adds: "It is our country, our home. As long as we live, we work in our fields."


Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Kolyang Palebele is President of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO). ©GIZ, 2023

In addition to the war in Ukraine, there are other conflicts on the African continent that threaten food security. This is pointed out by the president of the Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO), Kolyang Palebele, himself from Chad. "Conflicts prevent farmers from going to their fields because they are afraid of Islamist sects like Boko Haram." Many farmers therefore left their villages. In addition, there are the effects of climate change. "African agricultural policy must take into account all the challenges of today's world, make concrete proposals and help producers to overcome all these challenges," he said.


Farmers’ organisations such as PAFO could support governments in this. Many political concepts are outdated, says Palebele, "they were developed ten years ago and sometimes are no longer adapted to today's situation". That is why it is important to modernise agricultural policy in African countries, agriculture as a whole. For example, with the expansion of transport routes, better storage conditions and the training of farmers in digital technologies and the marketing of their products. With the supply shortages that go along with the Ukraine crisis, farmers would also have to return to old production methods and create natural products themselves. For example, fertiliser from cow and goat manure.


"Back to agroecology. That's our system," Palebele concludes.


Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Huldah Too Chelangat is a Kenyan farmer and works in the youth programme of the Kenya National Farmers' Federation (KENAFF). ©GIZ, 2023

"For me, farming is something I feel connected to," says Huldah Too Chelangat. The 30-year-old Kenyan grows maize, potatoes, onions and tomatoes on her land. Certainly, times are hard: "With the high prices caused by Russia's war against Ukraine, we have seen that revenues no longer cover production costs." Climate change is also causing particular problems for female farmers. "If it doesn't rain for a long time, they have to walk even longer distances to get water for themselves.


"When I produce my own food, I know how it was made and that it is safe. The fact that I can help feed the nation drives me in agriculture."


In order to inspire even more young people about agriculture, Huldah works in the youth program of the Kenyan farmers’ organisation KENAFF. There, they offer young farmers training, mentoring and exchange programs as well as internships to develop professionally. "They can exchange ideas with successful young farmers and see that you can also make a career in agriculture," says Huldah. Daniel Mwendah, CEO of KENAFF, explains why this is important. "Most farmers in Kenya are old. Statistics speak of an average age of 65 years. We are concerned about that." At the same time, he sees great potential in the agricultural sector in Kenya. "It can create jobs and wealth," says the Kenyan.


For Huldah, her path in agriculture is clear. But she also knows that she doesn't want to walk it alone. "As an individual, it is difficult to represent one's own interests. But when farmers come together in an organisation, they are heard." Farmers’ organisations such as PAFO and KENAFF are therefore supporting their members to have a greater political impact. "Farmers should have a say when it comes to the transformation and sustainability of food systems," emphasizes Daniel Mwendah from KENAFF. "This is the only way they can feed a growing population. Not only now, but also in the future."


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