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Farmers in Africa Address Deforestation and Hunger with Agroecology

“For those we work with, indigenous knowledge, local knowledge—that is their strength.”

These words from Bernard Guri, Groundswell International board member and executive director of our partner organization the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD) in Ghana, get to the heart of our mission.

Kelle Gregory is one of the farmers that CIKOD works with in Ghana. “Before the program, my farm was infertile,” says Kelle. “At harvest time I barely had any yields. However, after adopting and practicing the farmer managed natural regeneration of trees (FMNR) technologies, I get more and better yields…I combine it with other traditional techniques like tied ridging. In 2013 I only harvested five bags, but in 2014 I harvested seven, even though the rain was bad…I share this knowledge of FMNR with my family and with three of my friends who are practicing it on their farms. We have to give thanks to our ancestors for guiding us continuously despite economic challenges.”

Farmers in Africa face pressure from a growing new green revolution movement that seeks to “modernize” agriculture but at a very high cost, both in farm expenditures and environmental damage.

Responding to this crisis, our partner organization CIKOD works on the ground in Ghana with village leaders, farmers, local government and the media to help spread farmer innovations and agroecological practices.

Guri explains that there needs to be a change in public consciousness to move away from conventional agricultural inputs, towards indigenous ecological knowledge:

“There is misconception in the policy arena that we are not developing in Northern Ghana because of small farmers, so the government put out a campaign to ‘support small farmers’ by providing seeds, fertilizer, and herbicide to farmers with 12 hectares of land or more. In return, they would take the production. Land tenure is a very big problem to begin with and for the most part land is divided into small parts. No one owns 12 hectares alone. So this policy really only supported larger farmers.”

With government campaigns like this at play, small family farmers often get neglected or receive misinformation about how to develop their land. CIKOD intervenes with educational programs that help spread what small farmers already know, solutions that respect local culture and support the health and vibrancy of families.

Guri references a growing movement of farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) practices that have taken root in the region. “When small farmers pruned trees rather than clearcut them they noticed an improvement in soil quality. Additionally, women now had a local source of firewood and feed for livestock and the fallen leaves turned into an excellent source of organic matter,” he said.

Small shifts in farming practice have a huge impact on farmers’ lives. Learn more about local farmer innovations like FMNR in Ghana, as well as those in other countries, in our new book, Fertile Ground: Scaling Agroecology from the Ground Up.

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