The Building Local Economies in East Africa Through Agroecology project was successfully completed
By spreading agroecological practices and strengthening farmers’ knowledge of agroecological farming, the project “Building Local Economies in East Africa Through Agroecology”, funded by the AgroEcology Fund and launched in September 2019 to boost local economies and improve the livelihoods of communities in Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, has come to an end.
Throughout 18 (plus 4 of extension due to the Coronavirus) intense months of activities, the Slow Food network supported the development and strengthening of agroecological food systems as key to future food security, improving knowledge and communication on agroecology and including agroecology in policy frameworks. Remarkable results have been obtained, despite the difficulties encountered also due to the worldwide emergency of Coronavirus.
«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, courses for young producers and farmers on sustainable agriculture, 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», comment Samson Ngugi and Elphas Masanga dal Kenya, local project coordinators in Kenya.
In terms of results, the project trained 40 young food leaders (15 from Uganda, 15 from Kenya, 5 from D.R. Congo, 5 from Tanzania) through the Slow Food Academy and 102 producers and coordinators acquired specific skills on agroecology through the capacity building workshops conducted in Kenya and Uganda. 52 agroecological gardens have been established (15 Tanzania, 15 Kenya, 20 Uganda and 2 in DRC) both at community and school level involving around 2.400 participants. Then 5.400 people participated in the events increasing their awareness on the benefits of agroecology and conscious food choices while approximately 2.000.000 people have been reached through 31 radio programs conducted in Kenya and Uganda on agroecology, land grabbing and climate change. And finally, 14 local authorities have been influenced to prioritize agroecology and biodiversity protection in local laws and agriculture in Kenya and Uganda.
Academies and capacity building
In order to guide local producers and farmers toward a new agricultural system, and to build future food leaders, the Slow Food network organized the academies and events to create regional coordination linking all Slow Food projects and their practices on agroecology, with the aim of reinforcing and spreading effective and cost-efficient agroecological solutions. During 4 Slow Food Academies training sessions and 4 Capacity Buildings workshops, 142 participants from the 4 countries were able to acquire practical knowledge and skills through field visits and participation in online meeting engagements to share how they have been able to translate the knowledge and skills acquired to their communities, as well as sharing on how they have been able to adapt to the COVID 19 situation.
Find out more about Academies
In December 2019, involving more than 296 delegates (from Rwanda, Burundi and DRC) and 2200 visitors, a regional event was organized in Democratic Republic of Congo, Terra Madre Grand Lacs, focused on the management of the region’s lake fisheries, on the knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples, and on the active involvement of youth in the future of agriculture. The project planned also 6 local events in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (an Earth Market/Seed and Food Fair, Food Wise, a one-day open air Farmers Market, a Community Food Experience, participation to Tanzania Nane Nane agricultural fair and a special edition of Mangulwa Earth Market) aiming at creating a strong relationships between consumers, producers and local institutions, raising awareness of the importance of choosing local, seasonal and sustainable food.
During the international event Terra Madre 2020-21, an online forum has been organized: three cases studies on Slow Food agroecological projects, developed in collaboration with two local experts in Uganda and Kenya, were presented in order to provide documented evidence of the centrality of agroecological food systems to advance agroecology as the future of farming in Africa and globally.
Find out more about Case Studies
Collaboration with authorities, increasing their awareness
Limited government support, unfavorable policies, and lack of research on the benefits of agroecological solutions to face the current food system are some of the challenges centered on agroecology that Slow Food need to address to pave the path toward food sovereignty in the communities amid the growing crises in Africa.
«It’s very important to collaborate with authorities at local, regional and national level: it is vital in promoting local food systems and amplifying agroecology and urban, peri-urbans and kitchen gardens are key in guaranteeing food and nutritional security at household level. We arranged two policy dialogue meetings in central Uganda to prioritise agroecology in local legal and policy framework, one to discuss the awakening of the local food and agriculture by laws as well as prioritizing agroecological production techniques, local food biodiversity and small scale farmers in the local by laws, and another one to prioritise biodiverse food production techniques at the expense of sugarcane monocrop expansion in the area» comments John Kiwagalo, local project coordinator in Uganda.
Impact, results and future
The results of all these activities were not long in coming. There are numerous stories of those who have been able to draw inspiration and benefit from the project.
Within the project, for example, Shadrack Karanja, a young farmer and SFYN Kenya member, identified an opportunity in agroecology. After participating in the Slow Food Kenya Academy as a member of Kiashong’e community garden, he decided to start his own agroecological farm. Located in Wanyororo, Nakuru county, the garden has become a center of excellence and an inspiration not only to his fellow youth but also to the community at large.
In Nabbaale Village (Uganda), there is an ongoing transition of food communities from chemical-based conventional farming to agroecology. This transition was initiated by members of the Youth Framing Centre who have been using agrochemicals and commercial seeds on their land as promoted and trained by the input dealers until four of the members were invited to be part of the Slow Food Uganda Academy. These members decided to adopt agroecological production methods, explained what they learn to other members of the community and set up an ecological demonstration garden for the community. Due to the increasing interest in and adoption of agroecology, the garden has now attracted all the 26 members who use it as a learning center. They have also started to set up agroecological gardens in their homes.
“The notions on agroecology contributed to change my eating behavior – explains a woman from the Slow Food APAC Kisimbosa community in Walikale territory, Democratic Republic of Congo – helping me to revive the traditional food culture of my ancestors and their ways of surviving during difficult times of food crises. Through this learning, I became aware of the importance of safeguarding traditional foods which are favorable to my health as well as to the survival of the forest habitat. Thanks to the awareness raising training received within the project the yam variety that was at risk of disappearing is now available on our land of Kisimbosa Chamakasa and we are already experiencing an environmental restoration because of the community engagement in the forest resources management”
In Africa, agroecology has a potential in addressing food security as the practices allow farmers to have multiple sources of foods regardless of extreme weather conditions such as drought. Collaborating with like minded organizations and authorities at local, regional and national level is vital in promoting local food systems and amplifying agroecology, as making investment in youth is crucial in guaranteeing the future, not only of agroecology, but of the continent.
In this framework, Slow Food will continue to work towards strengthening alternative food distribution systems in addition to connecting small-scale farmers to cooks’ and supporting local farmers markets. This will enhance market access for small-scale farmers through creation of a direct link between food producers and consumers by eliminating the middlemen and thereby guaranteeing a fair price to both farmers and consumers. At the same time, working with communities, Slow Food will continue to participate and organize multisectoral forums focusing on agroecology and to support farmers in advocating for policy changes together with other organizations creating linkages between smallholder farmers, SMEs (producing biological/organic farm inputs) and service providers (extension officers) to boost the demand for agroecological products and extension services.