The Green Connection: The Unique Bond of the Irish, American & Africans
In the wake of President Bidens Blockbuster trip to Ireland in a time of TikTok and mass information, it is interesting to observe the confusion from other countries as to why this particular relationship is so significant if not a bit sentimental. Understandably, it has been diluted with the passing of time and misunderstood as yet another story of mass immigration - Irish citizens arriving into the land of the free in their droves in hope of a better life in the mid-19th century. But what has seemingly been forgotten from this chapter in history is like so many people in today's world, the Irish also once emigrated en masse to escape the disaster of food insecurity.
The period of the Irish Famine was a profound tragedy for the Irish people. While the fertile land still produced bountiful harvests, colonization by the British Empire meant the food was shipped out while over 1 million people starved to death. A percentage that, combined with a further 1 million in emigration - many of whom were farmers - Ireland's population has never recovered from.
The Irish Famine was significant enough that it became one of the first humanitarian crises to be reported in the early days of global media, prompting donations to Ireland from around the world including a powerful act of solidarity from native American tribes, who had themselves faced displacement and starvation. Their donation at a time when the Choctaw people had only recently endured their own forced removal from their ancestral lands, known as the Trail of Tears, remains a powerful example of empathy across different cultures and nations and a symbol of hope during one of the darkest times in Irish history.
These global acts of support from around the world crafted the charitable reputation Ireland holds true today - ingraining the ‘pay it forward’ philosophy throughout her international relations and outreach. Most notably, building a strong and lasting bond with the African continent - seeing a similar history repeated on its citizens through famine and conflict, the Irish people have been at the fore-font in supporting growth in Africa for decades.
This support has ranged from providing essential food and medical supplies to offering education and training opportunities to help build sustainable futures for communities. In government, Ireland has supported and provided funding to help drive economic growth and development across the continent. These efforts have helped to support many vital initiatives, including health programs, education and vocational training, infrastructure development, and environmental conservation and the sharing of expertise.
But beyond the material support, the unique relationship between Ireland and Africa is also characterized by a deep sense of solidarity and shared values. With both regions being rich in cultural heritage, and with a strong sense of mutual respect and understanding between them and values based on family and community.
As we make the journey back to the United States, at a time of global food crises and food disruption, we bring with us solutions and new pathways to what has real impact at a community and systems level especially for women. The memory of hunger, migration, poverty, the impact of colonialism and the importance of peace runs in our Irish African DNA. These values coupled with our own frontline experience of working for over three decades across Africa paved the way to the founding of LadyAgri.
Hilary Barry from Ireland and her co-founders Ayélé S. Gabiam from Togo and Aida Bakri from Ethiopia. The co-founders' common vision was that there is a need for a new way of working and reaching the real change agents in agri-value chains and across food systems. Covid, climate and conflict have challenged us and sorely revealed the fragility of our global food system. The LadyAgri solid network of partners and experts across the continent keep our finger firmly on the pulse to provide tangible solutions. Too many fires are burning for the traditional ‘ development aid’ approach to work and one size does not fit all countries and contexts. Our position is to invest and support African SME’s to drive and benefit from local , regional and international trade. With Africa as home to some of the world's most fertile and productive farmlands, the continent's agricultural industry is poised to become a major contributor to the local and global food market and women SME’s, cooperatives and farmers are leading the way.
Covid, climate and conflict have challenged us and sorely revealed the fragility of our global food system. The LadyAgri solid network of partners and experts across the continent keep our finger firmly on the pulse to provide tangible solutions. Too many fires are burning for the traditional ‘ development aid’ approach to work and one size does not fit all countries and contexts. Our position is to invest and support African SME’s to drive and benefit from local , regional and international trade. With Africa as home to some of the world's most fertile and productive farmlands, the continent's agricultural industry is poised to become a major contributor to the local and global food market and women SME’s, cooperatives and farmers are leading the way.
“Investing in Women agri-entrepreneurs and their SME’s across the African continent is simply smart economics! It’s good for US-Africa and global trade, creating decent jobs for women and youth. LadyAgri provides a sturdy vehicle for the public sector, investment and philanthropic community to have the desired social, economic and environmental impact. `` - Hilary Barry, CEO LadyAgri
“There is a strong business case to invest in women led SME partnerships in agri-food, agri-services, technology, packaging, logistics and agri-tech solutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Women can champion the building of these economic ties ensuring we move from ‘aid to trade’ and together reach the sustainable development goals. This is what setting a path to green, resilient and inclusive development looks like”.
Research has shown again and again that with the right level of investment support, women guarantee three fold impact for their businesses generating further growth for farmers in their supply chain and surrounding communities. LadyAgri ensures these women are visible, valued and heard for their true contribution as drivers of the local and international food systems and socially inclusive economic growth.
“The American-African diaspora have a key role to play in the emergence of a vibrant African economy where women agri-entrepreneurs may build momentum in their businesses. The success and full economic empowerment of women will determine whether we will reach the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. There is no time to lose as the deadline draws ever near” states co-founder Ayélé S. Gabiam.
As we touch down once again on American soil not long after President Biden has bid farewell to the Irish nation and following Kamala Harris' parallel mission to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia, we call to Rebuild, Renew and Reinvent new solutions focusing on women in African agri value chains. With the voices of thousands of women prepared to take the next leap from aid to trade, the African-US win-win opportunities are waiting to be opened and explored. In the words of Irish President Michael D Higgins in his address at the Dakar, Senegal summit on food sovereignty and food resilience January 2023 , President Higgins called for the need for greater engagement with and empowerment of women in any new approaches to dealing with food security issues.
"At the top of our mutual agenda must be securing the positive role of women as land-holders, as full participants in decisions in relation to food production, distribution and nutrition."
President Higgins was the only non-African Head of State to attend the Summit demonstrating the unique bond of the Irish, African connection as he addressed 25 Heads of African states, governors of African central banks, representatives from development agencies, NGOs, private sector stakeholders, academics and scientists. LadyAgri carries his message forward !