Agroecology as key for the future: building local economies in East Africa

25 May 2021

The positive impact of agroecological practices and their environmental, socio-cultural, health and economic benefits is highlighted in three interesting case studies from the “Building Local Economies in East Africa through Agroecology” project, funded by the Agroecology Fund and launched by Slow Food in collaboration with its local networks in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Slow Food project which ended in February 2021, was led by local networks in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Throughout 18 intense months of activities, the Slow Food network supported the development of agroecological food systems as key to future food security, improving knowledge and communication on agroecology and including agroecology in policy frameworks.

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The activities that have unfolded during the project were focused in particular on training local producers on the potential of agroecology in the local food system, not only by working in the field through collaboration with technicians and Academies, but also by enhancing market opportunities based on direct contact between producers and consumers, which generates higher incomes, more employment and well-being (as a deep multiplier effect) and contributes to a new narrative around agroecology.

“Despite the fact that Agriculture is the backbone of East African Economies – Elphas Masanga, Kenya project coordinator, explains – it continues to be disregarded by the youth who constitute over 70% of the population. Finding ways of making agriculture attractive to the youth continues to be an uphill task. In the framework of building local Economies in East Africa project, Slow Food Youth academies on agroecology were organized, community agroecological gardens were started and capacity building sessions organized. This has played a major role in changing the perception of youth, supporting young agripreneurs in agroecology and strengthening a network of future food leaders. This will contribute significantly in improving the African food system, creating employment opportunities and mitigating the impacts of Climate Change and guaranteeing healthy diets to our communities.”

Based on the data collected throughout the project, three case studies have been developed in collaboration with two local experts in Uganda and Kenya, Geoffrey Gabiri and  Joseph Karangathi. Through these studies, presented in a Terra Madre Forum last march, it was possible to document and provide evidence that agroecology works in these particular food systems and convey the message that agroecology could be the agriculture of the future.

A case study about Slow Food Gardens: Karirikania, Kaki and Kinyas Community Gardens in Kenya

The case study looked at activities carried out in two Slow Food Gardens in Kenya: Karirikania, Kaki and Kinyas Community Gardens.

Agroecology

Slow Food Community Garden, Kenya

The impact of these activities has been significant in many ways, at both the environmental and economic level. In particular, farmers involved in garden activities, gradually increased crop diversity of indigenous food and vegetables by 41%, created self-employment and generated income through the sale of vegetables and livestock.

Agroecological techniques that are less dependent on external inputs enable farmers to earn an income without high production costs. width=Finally, involvement in garden activities enables the farmers to take control of production at the household level. They diversify production of other foods and eventually become able to get most of the foods from their farms, thus ensuring that their families’ livelihood is supported from the farm. Currently, 78% of the garden farmers are able to get sufficient food supply all year round, 16% reach a  6-month supply and 6% produce enough food to cover their needs for 3 months per year.

TO FIND THE FULL VERSION OF THE CASE STUDY CLICK HERE

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A case study about the Bukunja Climbing Yams Presidium

Interviews with 40 climbing yam Presidium farmers in Bukunja-Buikwe district, mostly women, were conducted to prove how agroecology has improved the farmer’s livelihood and biodiversity, as well as map relevant stakeholders involved in the spreading of the approach.

Agroecology

Slow Food Presidium Bukunja Climbing Yams

The Presidium has preserved the 10 traditional varieties of climbing yam which were at risk of extinction and has implemented the traditional methods of cultivation and management of the land through agroforestry, soil and water conservation practices such as ridge and trench-making as well as mulching, which preserve the fertility of the land and hydrographic ecosystems.

Through the agroecological practices applied in the Presidium, farmers have witnessed an  improvement in their livelihoods through increased food production. “From the study, it is revealed that taking a presidium approach to agroecology works and has the potential to enhance food security and sovereignty, increasing household income and diversity in food sources and increase community resilience to adverse climate change impacts among others.” Geoffrey Gabiri, the Ugandan expert author of the study, observes.

TO FIND THE FULL VERSION OF THE CASE STUDY CLICK HERE

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A case study about the Mukono Earth Market in Central Uganda and Manafwa Earth Market in Eastern Uganda.

A total of 40 Earth Market farmers from Mukono-Wakiso, Central Uganda and  20 farmers and Manafwa, Eastern Uganda were interviewed about their activities, with a particular attention also to gender-related issues. The use of agroecology and the sale of products resulting from this practice has brought many benefits.

Agroecology

Mukono-Wakiso Earth Market, Uganda

Participation in the Uganda Earth Market led to increased diversity in crop production: due to involvement in the Earth Markets, farmers have learnt to grow other crop varieties and types, in addition to what they already have, thus increasing crop diversity on their farms and consequently food security and food sovereignty.

Moreover, the Earth Markets emphasize protection and promotion of agro-food biodiversity through selling local food ecotypes and supporting small-holder producers who safeguard the culture and manual skills that make up good, clean and fair production chains. This ensures food security, food sovereignty and environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection.

Furthermore, gender considerations have been taken into account in the Earth Markets project, where the participation of women in the local food value chains is very high. This is promising for the future of sustainable agroecological production systems, since small scale agriculture in the country is mainly driven by female farmers who, in most cases, lack the knowledge to improve the quality of their production as well as information to access to markets. Therefore, direct participation of women in the agroecological value chain through this project can help them overcome these constraints, increase their economic and social position, improve access to primary services and household food security. width=

Finally, participation in the Earth Markets has the potential to increase producers’ household income and nutrition (since a variety of local foods are grown by a single farmer), and thus improved health, food security and sovereignty. In the long run, this encourages farmers’ perception and use of natural resources and biodiversity management approaches.

TO FIND THE FULL VERSION OF THE CASE STUDY CLICK HERE 

“For me, agroecology is the agriculture of the current and future generation.  – Joseph Karangathi, one of the external consultants from Kenya, concluded – This is because it restores farming under the control of farmers, by enabling them to prioritize the crops and livestock to keep, according to household and local demand. It works with nature and ecosystem making it climate resilient, it depends on locally available resources and thus resource-poor farmers are able to participate in production without being subjected to global market pressure and influence. Farmers are able to maintain both crop and livestock diversity through preserving local seeds”.

“Scaling-up agroecological approaches can significantly contribute to achieving sustainable agriculture and food systems without compromising biodiversity and the protection of natural resources.” is what Geoffrey Gabiri – the Ugandan expert who worked on the cases studies – comments on the Slow Food projects analyzed.

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