Family farms and Markets in Sub-Saharan Africa

When I first visited the United States, I found certain things I was used to in Nigeria and Uganda seemed to have disappeared from American lifestyles. In my community where I grew up we had many local artisans and tradesman - the soap maker, the seamstress, the textile maker, local farmers, etc. Virtually everything we needed was locally produced and handmade. One would see everything from smoking fish to making banana beer being done in homes and along the roadsides.

My family bought our food and many household goods directly from the farm or in local outdoor markets. Small family farmers lived in close proximity to our house. Often, we would walk to their homes to buy our produce before they headed to the open markets. These markets were in permanent locations. Men and women owned their small spaces where they displayed their produce. In the parts of Sub-saharan Africa that I know foods tend to be fresh, fruits are delicious and harvested when they are ripened. There was no such thing as harvesting green and transporting long distances to market.

By contrast, I found that in the United States the people I knew tended to shop in supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables were often trucked in from far away unripened (and not so tasty) while many foods came in boxes or cans. The concept of going to a supermarket to buy a prepared meal (or a frozen meal) was a new and disappointing reality.

I am glad to see that where I live in California there has been a growing interest in healthy and in-season foods that are locally produced or come from within a few hours distance. Some of my friends take great pride in growing their own small vegetable garden, make a spice garden out of planters, keep small size poultry for fresh eggs and raise a few pigs. They love the flavor, the freshness and the taste of home-grown food.

The images of markets and family farms come from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Benin.