Food Heritage Project
The first process was to select the locations for the pilot project. We had to take into consideration availability of land, traditional farming expertise available in the area, support of the traditional authorities and the willingness of the farmers to participate in this project. Thus 2 locations were chosen
- Ogbaku Agwu Enugu state - https://goo.gl/maps/CEvPxNudLMAaurmdA
- Akili Ogbaru in Anambra state - https://goo.gl/maps/DfbeKDGzU3AGKTbk7
We met first with traditional and religious leaders in Ogbaku and the traditional ruler of Akili Ogbaru, to introduce the project and the aims of the project. All the people we met with, acknowledged the need to promote nutritious indigenous crops and conserve rare and threatened species, which was encouraging.
The next step was to meet with the farmers. Although they were interested in the project, some were worried about the economic benefits. Thus we informed them that we will market the produced crops through our network.
To further motivate them and allay their worries, we promised to support them to grow selected organic crops which are now part of the food system such as onions, tomatoes and paprika. Thus they are assured of having some extra income. The distribution of these organic seeds was done in December 2018. We also informed them that 50 percent of what they produce will be for their consumption. We intend to liaise with local schools to serve lunch made from these indigenous crops to the children.
To start off, we asked the farmers to give the names of crops or species that they knew to be nutritious but were no longer widely grown. We also collected more names of plants from university researchers especially those that are rich in protein.
The next step is to do an online drive for crops and seeds to add to our database. This will be done through social media platforms of cultural groups, associations and community networks. To insure it succeeds, we will give each person that sends us a picture of a crop or plant that is rare or endangered, the location of the crop/plant, the local use or recipe, a free telephone recharge card. In the appendix is a list of the crops and plants we have for this planting season.
Although the farmers in the project have agreed to dedicate sections of their farms for growing indigenous plants and crops, we also realized that we need to have land where collected crops can be planted and conserved prior to their distribution to interested farmers or individuals . For this we need land that is not just fertile but is located near a sustainable source of water. We got land in Agwu and Aninri in Enugu state. The first piece of land which is located near a stream is 2 hectares. we have been offered the option of buying more than 20 hectares of fertile land close to a river. However, at a cost of 4 million naira which at current exchange rates is 9895.044 euros, we need support to be able to afford the land.
After the harvest we will sell all the products from the farms via an online platform and through some dedicated shops that have agreed to be a point of sale or collection for consumers. We will make use of social media networks to share information about our products and where people can buy them. In the current Nigerian food system, indigenous food crops are in high demand especially from the elite and wealthy, who can afford to pay premium price for these.
We are also working on providing a scientific backing to the traditional knowledge about the crops, by analysing in reputable food labs the nutritional content of all the indigenous crops grown in the farms. Thus working in partnership with universities and research institutes in very important for this project. Currently we are working with Prof M Nzelu, a university professor of nutritional studies, whose expertise has been very useful.
The farmers affiliated to this project also need continuous support and training not just on conservation or agricultural practices but also on entrepreneurial skills. Hence we engage with local Ngos, government agencies and institutions that already have the resources to deliver on this. We need all the resources and support we can get, to enable us build a sustainable food heritage project.
What do we need?
It will be great to have a partner with the resources to support the whole project, however parts of the project can be supported, to help us further towards achieving our goals.
- For this planting season on the 2 hectares –
- Acquiring and clearing land
- Buying and distributing organic vegetable seeds
- Collection of seeds and plants, tilling& planting, weeding and harvest
- Meetings, communications and training
- Logistics ( collection and transportation from farms to the shops and consumers)
- Rental for a temporary storage for tools and materials
- Appeal drive and collection of second hand telephones to be given to the farmers, so communication and information can be shared easily through whatsapp and other means
- Appeal and collection of second hand working materials such as boots, protective clothes, garden and farm implements and for marketing; weighing scales, calculators
- Logistics cost for sending the materials collected from the appeal drive
- Fund for the online drive for rare crops/ plants ; these cost covers telephone recharge cards, logistics for collection of seeds, crops/plants and information on traditional use.
- land for conservation and dissemination of crops and plants including nursery, demonstration farms.
- To reduce the environmental impact of polythene bags, we plan to sell our produce in locally woven reusable baskets and hampers