THE Lorna Young Foundation (LYF) provides an alternative approach to supporting smallholder farmers in developing countries. The charity helps fund a unique programme with a double-pronged approach, called ‘The Smallholder Support Peer Network.’ This involves working in partnership with both African education institutions and smallholder producer organisations.

Cris Talens, Programme Co-ordinator, said: “We match African education institutions together as peers, so that they can support and learn from each other in providing bespoke agribusiness education for the smallholder organisations in their areas. This means that we are building the capacity of in-country institutions to provide the necessary business education for farmers – as opposed to flying in ‘experts’ from the North.”

The network was established when the charity secured support from Comic Relief to build on their work with Ambo College in Ethiopia and Nyeri Technical Training Institute (NTTI) in Kenya.

The programme transfers Ambo’s knowledge and experience of working with smallholders to the NTTI, enabling the NTTI to then train their own staff to work with local smallholder producer organisations in Nyeri.

As the programme gains momentum, the LYF hopes to work with new local partners to expand and extend the reach of the peer network first throughout Ethiopia and Kenya, and then into other East African countries and beyond.

Cris added: “Our aim is to build a pan-African network of local organisations working towards a common purpose – to strengthen smallholder producer organisations, lifting their farmer members out of poverty.

This ‘Peer Partnering’ approach is capturing the imagination of smallholders, co-operatives, NGOs, educational institutions and governments in East Africa. It delivers real independence, opens up market access and creates sustainable local capacity in a cost-effective manner as it builds on the skills, knowledge and infrastructure already widely available in East Africa.”

Christina Longden, Director of the LYF, said: “Here in the UK we help to inspire young people and work closely with the Fairtrade movement to ultimately show that anybody can support local farmers by buying their products.

There doesn’t have to be an issue of competition – we can work together by shopping more sensibly and thinking about where our products come from.”

Visit the LYF’s website, for more information.