Grateful for the work being done to create a ground swell of change
Global support for agroecology is growing. The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) conference in Rome in April 2018, the spread of community-led agroecological alternatives, and increasing media coverage are signs of that growth. We’re proud to have been a part of this conversation for the last decade and couldn’t be more excited to see the international community engaging with agroecology as one of the most viable solutions to address climate change, food insecurity and economic injustice that we’re seeing all over the world.
As we wrap up 2018 and reflect on the last year, we’d like to highlight a few key achievements from our programs in West Africa. We couldn’t do this work without you, and hope you also take pride in the good work we’ve done to strengthen communities to move agroecology forward.
Engaging in the FAO global symposium on Scaling Agroecology
Groundswell staff and partners were invited to Rome, to present their work and contribute to the wider deliberations. In preparation for this event, the FAO invited submissions from across the world for success stories relating to how to promote and spread agroecology. Groundswell and partners in West Africa as well as Haiti each had cases selected by the FAO to be showcased in the form of large posters. The Groundswell West Africa network case focused on our Agroecology Plus Six initiative, while the Haiti case focused on the promotion of farmer-managed enterprises to strengthen local food systems.
Agroecology Plus Six Initiative
The Groundswell West Africa network completed a major 1 million dollar regional action research initiative (with partners in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal) on how to strengthen the resilience of small-scale farmers in the Sahel. This initiative was part of the Global Resilience Partnership and received funding from US-AID, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Swedish International Development Agency.
AE+6 involved developing a “proof of concept” on how enabling millions of small-scale family farmers in the Sahel region of West Africa to transition towards more effective agroecological farming strategies is essential for building resilience to climate change, improving food security and nutrition, and reversing desertification and land degradation. Combinations of “foundational” techniques and innovations working in synergy include: agroforestry, soil and water conservation, improved methods for producing rapid compost, crop rotations, intercropping, dry-season gardening, and use of shorter cycle seeds.
Beyond increasing food production through agroecology, this initiative also focused on six complementary strategies requiring greater attention across the field:
1. Women’s empowerment within agroecology, enabling them to gain increased access to land, seeds, water, livestock, credit and technical training
2. Diversification of livelihoods for women, and increased control of income through fostering local women’s savings and credit groups
3. Nutrition Linkages within agroecology to improve family nutrition and diversity of diets
4. Equity to reach the most vulnerable as poorer farm families often are excluded from benefits
5. Scaling strategies, to rapidly spread agroecology to reach tens of thousands of small-scale farmers in each specific agroecosystem zone
6. Improved local governance by strengthen collaboration between community leaders and municipal councils to support for agroecology for local well-being and resilience
Groundswell and partners have documented the process, results, and lessons learned of the AE+6 initiative in a series of four Case Studies. In addition, we produced four related Policy Notes with key recommendations for main actors, including governments, international organizations and farmers’ organizations seeking to improve agricultural production and build resilience to climate change, agriculture and resilience. Read the highly relevant case studies and policy notes.
In addition, we presented these findings in a variety of webinars, conferences, and workshops. These included: a presentation at an international conference organized by the Global Resilience Partnership in the Hague, the Netherlands; a webinar organized by the Resilience Unit of USAID that included key staff of the USAID in Washington and the missions across the Sahel (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger); and a webinar organized by the Global Resilience Partnership for a number of international participants.
Spreading Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) of trees and agroecology in the Sahel
The AE+6 program allowed Groundswell to strengthen West Africa network partners’ to develop new initiatives to support agroecology in each country, and facilitate learning, exchange and capacity building on relevant strategies across countries. A key foundational innovation is FMNR, an effective approach to agroforestry in the Sahel that we are working with allies to spread. Groundswell and its network members in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana will make presentations of their FMNR work at the upcoming international “Beating the Famine” conference to be held in Bamako, Mali in February 2019.
Advocacy for Agroecology
Groundswell works closely with its network partners in West Africa, and wider movements, to create enabling policies for agroecology. We work to leverage effective programs with farming families and communities to influence local and national governments to provide increased funding and support for agroecology. One of the most recent and promising initiatives on this front is a campaign to reform the Farm Input Subsidy Programs (FISP) of national governments.
Across all of sub-Saharan Africa, national governments have made a commitment to adhere to the “Maputo Declaration” of the African Union, committing to spending 10% of the national budget in support of agriculture and family farming. Yet most government funding is currently used to subsidize agricultural inputs such as chemical fertilizers, hybrid seeds, herbicides, pesticides and provision of tractor services. Most of these “Green Revolution” technologies support better resourced farmers producing cash crops for export grown in monocultures, such as cocoa, peanuts, irrigated rice, and cotton.
In Ghana, for example, the subsidy for chemical fertilizers takes up over 40% of the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture. This benefits sales of international fertilizer companies but leaves very little public support for small-scale farmers, particularly those in ecologically fragile, more risk-prone areas. There is a lack of sufficient investment and technical support for agroecological approaches that are more climate resilient, sustainable, and nutrition-oriented. There is insufficient support for rural roads, local markets, and infrastructure for local food processing and transport that benefits the majority of small-scale farmers.
Most importantly, the effects of the industrial, “Green Revolution” technologies tend to degrade the natural resource base (soil, water, local vegetation) and undermine diversified farming which is essential for diversified diets. The focus of the “FISP reform” advocacy work, both in Ghana and Burkina Faso, is to mobilize widespread support by farmer organizations, civil society organizations, and their allies to persuade government to “shift” more of their public spending away from subsidies for external chemical inputs towards agroecological strategies that work with nature and regenerate ecosystems and livelihoods.
Groundswell receives award from the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)
The Groundswell West Africa network is an active and proud member of AFSA, serving on a number of key working groups related to sustainable land management and climate change. AFSA recently recognized Groundswell’s contributions with an award “for demonstrating leadership and commitment to advancing Agroecology and Food Sovereignty in Africa.” We are honored by this recognition.
New collaboration with Vibrant Village for support and shared learning on agroecology in West Africa
Groundswell is pleased to have developed an important new partnership with the Vibrant Village foundation for a regional learning and support initiative for agroecology. By collaborating with like-minded allies, we can share lessons and grow the movement together.
Thank you for your continued interest and passion for effective strategies that allow communities in West Africa and around the world to sustainably and meaningfully improve their lives. This holiday season as you are celebrating with loved ones, we hope you will also celebrate our work together to enable people all over the world to enjoy healthy and productive harvests. Please consider donating to spread this movement of hope together!