Award-winning photos capture farmland life in rural Africa

Updated 10:39 AM ET, Thu March 9, 2017

Kenneth O'Halloran is the winner of the Open Competition category of the Syngenta Photography Award 2017. A selection of these works will be on display at the Syngenta Photography Award exhibition "Grow Conserve" at Somerset House in London until March 28.


In the arid farmlands of Burkina Faso, a young boy takes a bite from a ripe, bright yellow mango, as he looks out over the muddy waters of Lake Bam and the local cattle who come here to drink.
Whether for fish or crops, his community of subsistence farmers relies on nature's resources for their survival.
But not nearly enough rain has hit the cracked soil in recent years, and the lake is shrinking.
Boy with mango at Lake Bam, near the town of Kongoussi, Burkina Faso
In an attempt to capture the struggles and beauty of life in smallholder farming communities like this, photographer Kenneth O'Halloran visited farmlands in Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Burkina Faso and Togo, over the last couple of years.
His images depict the daily life of some of the world's most vulnerable people.
Agriculture in the belt of countries below the Sahara desert is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with some projections saying that the production of cereal crops in the region could fall by up to 30 per cent in the coming decade, according to Self Help Africa, a non-profit organization who operate in the area and supported the photographer's work.
Harvested sunflowers in the village of Guduza, Zambia
Shorter growing seasons, a decrease in rainfall, and yet occasional destructive flooding all contribute to the vulnerability of the people in the region, who depend on their crops for their survival.
Without water, nothing grows, but too much, from heavy rain and flash floods, can create problems too.
At a stop in a village in the Centre-Est region of Burkina Faso, O'Halloran met a young man digging for groundwater with a shovel.
His community hopes the well will help boost their crop yield, in an attempt to adapt to a changing climate which has brought on hotter summers and poor harvests.
Zougmore Saidou, 21, digging a well at Gomtenga Village, Burkina Faso
The images show how climate change directly affects poor, rural communities, the photographer Kenneth O'Halloran told CNN.
"They have been forced to accept that rain-fed agriculture will only provide them with a supply of food for part of the year," he says.
In 2014 and 2015 upwards of two million people in Burkina Faso received food aid during the so-called hungry season -- the months after the year's store of grain has been used up and before the next harvest, according to O'Halloran.
"In the past they used to grow enough to carry them through eight or nine months, they told me. But no longer."
Farmer Michael Mwangi, 48, in the village of Haraka, Nakuru County, Kenya
O'Halloran's photos "Rural Africa" are currently on display at the Syngenta Photography Award 2017 exhibition, "Grow-Conserve," at Somerset House in London until March 28.
The image "Rice Farmer" (below) won the Open Category.
He was enthralled by the story of 38-year-old Sanwogou Lalle -- a mother of five and rice farmer in Tonte Village, Togo -- who lay out her grains to dry on a blue concrete surface in front of him.
Sanwougou Lalle, 38, drying rice in the village of Tonte, Togo
"Sanwogou, who was just months away from giving birth to her fifth child when this picture was taken. She told me she was sending all of her children to school, and she had a dream that one day her son would become a doctor."
More than half the farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women, according to Self Help Africa, and in some areas women produce 70 per cent of the food grown on small farms.