Financial expert Colin Brereton treks across Tanzania seeing the work of charity Farm Africa
12:30 11 February 2016
It’s a far cry from his home in Stoke-by-Clare but for Colin Brereton a love of nature, being outdoors and preserving the world for future generations has seen him pack his bags for a gruelling trek in aid of farmers in Africa.
Support Colin’s Farm Africa trek
Colin Brereton and the group paid all their own costs for the trip and therefore all funds raised will go entirely to Farm Africa.
So far £23,372 has been raised by the group with Mr Brereton’s share of this currently in excess of £10,000.
To donate go to Virgin Money Giving and search for Colin Brereton, then click on Colin Brereton’s Tanzania Highland Challenge.
The father-of-two is a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers UK where he leads on its response to the economic crises in Europe. However away from his high-flying city job Mr Brereton is a director and trustee at Farm Africa, a charity which works with smallholder farmers across the east of the continent who are at risk of crop failure make the most of its natural resources.
At the end of January (28) Mr Brereton and nine others set off to Tanzania as part of a fundraising trip for the charity which will see them trek from the Serengeti National Park in the north of the country. They will then journey across the Ngotongoro highlands before dropping past an active volcano into the Lake Natron basin. As part of the challenge the team has spent months training to walk 12km to 28km a day along a demanding route specifically devised for the expedition in temperatures around the high-20s centigrade. Their journey ended on February 8.
Mr Brereton has personal experience of farming, though in the gentler climes of Suffolk on his family farm. “I love being outdoors and looking after the land is really important to me, we need to preserve the world for generations to come,” he said ahead of the trip.
And there is also first-hand experience of Africa, the financial expert having grown up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the 57-year-old acknowledges the country’s history as a British colony has affected its development since.
He said: “I grew up in a beautiful country and spent a lot of time outside. Africa was heavily exploited during the colonial era and there has been very limited development within the continent.
“It’s only right that issues around poverty and hunger should be addressed as people shouldn’t have to live such difficult lives.”
During the trip Mr Brereton and his fellow trekkers will spend a day visiting two Farm Africa projects to meet sesame farmers and beekeepers being supported by the charity. Applying a practical approach rural farmers are provided with seeds, tools, and expertise to double or triple their yields.
They also receive help to become more resilient to the effects of climate changes and are assisted in accessing markets so they can increase their income and build sustainable businesses.
Working directly with over 1.5 million people each year farmers pass on their new-found knowledge, climate smart seeds and livestock offspring to others resulting in a ripple effect which means Farm Africa is able to indirectly reach 15m people annually.
“When I’ve spoken to smallholder farmers in Africa I’ve been struck by how tough things are when they only have access to basic tools and limited inputs, and when success depends on the weather,” Mr Brereton added. “Despite this they remain so positive and your heart goes out to them.
“Farm Africa’s work is really important because they have a detailed understanding of what is happening on the ground and stimulate the type of development that brings long term economic growth.
“Africa is so important to the future of the world. If you look at the global population it has doubled in my lifetime. The world cannot survive unless Africa becomes productive and plays its part.
“So development isn’t just for Africa’s sake but for the world’s sake, for the future of my children and possible grandchildren.”
One of the farmers Colin Brereton and his fellow trekkers met on their journey was Martin Constantine, a 42-year-old who had only a primary school education but has now developed a machine being used by other smallholder farmers after getting training from Farm Africa.
He farms sesame, something traditionally done by hand. Farmers have had to dig individual holes a few centimetres deep for each seed then go back and forth along their plot of land digging and dropping seeds – a process which is very time consuming and can cause back pain.
“Sesame is a drought-resistant crop and many farmers were encouraged to get into this kind of farming but the challenge was on how to plant the sesame seeds, which are very small,” Mr Constantine said. “I used to farm sesame using outdated farming practices which didn’t transform my income and livelihood.
“Planting was one of the tedious job as I and my wife had to go back and forth in our five acre plot which meant we had to walk more than 20km. I saw the gap and asked some experts on the possibilities of developing the technology.
“It was a very long journey to reach where I am but finally I came up with this new machine. Now I am at a very good stage whereby many people have been accepting my technology.”