Some of the 2000 farmers supported by Oxfam in the Nyariga district – many of them women.
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I went to Ghana recently, travelling to the north of the country with Oxfam to see how the trade rules work against the poor farmers. At the time, I wasn’t sure what the kind of low-level subsistence farming we were seeing had to do with the world trade. But when Ghana asked for a loan from the World Bank in 1983, they were subsidising farmers like these – who make up 60 per cent of the population by giving them cheap fertiliser and seeds. When the loan came in, they had to prioritise paying it back with interest, so anything that wasn’t high profit-making was put on a back burner. In Ghana they prioritised gold and timber, which only two per cent of the population are involved in but which obviously make a lot of profit. The farmers got dropped, and that’s why it’s a real struggle for them now. Which is how it links in with Fair Trade – a lot of developing countries were prevented from looking after their own people by trade rules imposed on them from outside. The World Bank needs to take interest in the lives of real people, not just look at the profit balances. The good thing is that everybody in the world seems to be learning more about these issues. A few years ago, no one really talked about it, no one knew there was a problem. Now we do. That’s the first step towards change. And in Ghana, we saw peasant farmers banding together to make their own voices heard too. It’s not all negative. If we all make our feelings clear to politicians who want our votes we can force these institutions to change.
Photography Matt Jones