Chaired by Jonathon Dimbleby at London’s City Hall, the Big Debate was set around one question: Is family farming the solution to poverty in Africa? It’s a question that resonates with the UN’s declaration of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming.


On the panel were Louise Tickle (specialist education and social affairs journalist), Guy Watson (founder of Riverford organic foods), Ida MikisaHadoto (Gender and Social Development Coordinator for Send a Cow Uganda) and Professor Andrew Westby (Director at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich).

Introducing the debate, Dimbleby noted that: “There is a huge amount of talk about GM and agri-farming. There is less media talk about the fact that 90% of the food eaten by Africans is grown by small farmers.”

In tackling the central question of how family farming might help Africa to thrive, the evening touched on issues such as science and food productivity, the realities behind commercial ‘land grabs’, the ethics of using pesticides and the importance of child education. The issue of gender equality also took precedence, with Ida Mikisa Hadoto explaining the all-too common disparity between male and female workloads, and the methods by which Send a Cow’s social programmes attempt to readdress the balance.

“A better gender balance is extraordinarily important,” agreed Dimbleby. “In Africa you see the problem with tradition: a lot of men talk politics and discuss the crops, while a lot of women work themselves to the bone, collecting water, planting crops, looking after children.”

Family farms have been at the forefront of Send a Cow’s work for over 25 years, an approach that has helped transform the lives of a million people in Africa through practical, cost-effective, sustainable programmes which produce astounding and lifelong results.

You can watch more of the Big Debate, as well as interviews with the pannellists on our YouTube playlist.