“The Politics of Knowledge” is a new overview from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food on how funders, researchers and policy makers can help scale up agroecological practices around the world.
“Companies and governments have supported [industrial agriculture] At a recent symposium focused on the African region, Ronnie Brathwaite, Senior Agriculture Officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said:
Industrial farming systems rely heavily on input from a few key suppliers and often need to ship food around the world, says Brathwaite. And, as recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have revealed, the vulnerabilities of these systems threaten food security in Africa and around the world.
Brathwaite emphasizes the need for systemic change for food security and food sovereignty. It is also important for the additional benefits that communities can derive from better agricultural practices, such as job opportunities, income generation, and strengthening the rural economy.
“It can come from agroecology,” says Brathwaite.
Janet Maro, Executive Director of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania, describes agroecology as linking with nature, reducing the use of large external inputs, improving and sustaining biodiversity, recycling resources, and supporting local communities. It defines a sustainable and holistic agricultural system that prioritizes the supply chain. For climate change mitigation.
This is a revolutionary approach, says Maro.
Results from the African Agroecological Performance Evaluation Tool (TAPE) show that households using more advanced agroecological practices are associated with different benefits. They score higher in soil health, agrobiodiversity, natural vegetation and pollinator presence, more diverse diets, and better economic performance.
Africa’s rural areas with more agroecological farms can feed more people. FAO’s Agroecology and Livestock Specialist Dario Lucantoni said the population is large and tends to employ more in agriculture, “as a result young people are less likely to migrate”.
TAPE also showed that in areas with more agroecological households, “women enjoy greater gender equality and have a greater say in decision-making.”
Agroecological practices are already promoting gender equality across northern Malawi, said Lizzie Shumba, agriculture and nutrition manager at Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC). SFHC is a non-profit organization that conducts community-based training on agroecology through a participatory collaborative learning approach.
“After applying various agroecological practices that involve both men and women, we have seen significant changes in terms of gender relations within households and communities,” Shumba says. This includes equality of property ownership, control over income, input into agricultural decision-making, workload and leisure.
Meanwhile, these households have significantly improved soil fertility, climate resilience and biodiversity. According to Shumba, they are 32% less likely to be severely food insecure for each additional food crop they grow.
However, despite the research presented, Gungu Mibabu, a senior economist in the Tanzanian government, says there is not enough scientific evidence to support the commercialization of agroecological practices.
“We, as a region or a continent, lack a common platform for this … We have several agroecology centers or what we have and experiences to share, build knowledge and You can have a kind of platform where you can spread the problem,” Mibab says.
Brathwaite said there is ample evidence proving that agroecology works, but we don’t see a lot of resources being spent on big chemical and seed companies.
“There’s big money out there, and it’s in the private sector,” says Brathwaite. “Either we need a foundation to help scale agroecology, or we need to engage the private sector in our mindset of valuing sustainability over profit. The latter is more difficult.”
Mr Brathwaite emphasized that while FAO is joining multiple partners to integrate agencies, institutions and farmers’ groups under the Agroecological Coalition, these activities still require donor funding. I’m here. We can do them because funds are not available.
Throughout the discussion, speakers agree that effective scaling up of agroecological practices in Africa requires all sectors and stakeholders to be at the table.
“Farmers alone, or scientists alone, or policy makers alone, cannot really make the big changes, nor bring about the needed transformation of the food system,” Maro says. We need collaboration, we need to work together.”
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Photo credit: Steven Weeks, Unsplash