The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is launching a new initiative: Making the Case for Agro-ecology (available at www.afsafrica.org/case-studies) today. The event at Karimjee Hall in Dar es Salaam will showcase some of the best agro-ecological practices from around the African continent, which demonstrate that ecological agriculture can improve small scale farmers' livelihoods.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, the world-famous, award-winning environmental activist, will be present at the launch in order to lend her support. Dr. Shiva is currently in Tanzania to champion agro-ecology during this, the United Nations International Year of Family Farming. Agroecology works in harmony with nature, using cultivation techniques and breeding programmes that do not rely on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or artificial genetic modification. It builds on traditional agricultural practices using research, technology and existing indigenous knowledge, while at the same time ensuring that it is farmers that are in control of all aspects of food production.
AFSA's coordinator, Dr. Million Belay, encouraged government and donor support for agroecology, saying; "As the AFSA case studies show, agro-ecology improves the lives of farmers, and with the appropriate support, can be adopted on a large scale."
Currently, small-scale farmers produce 70% of the world's food, using only a quarter of the world's farmland. As corporations aggressively move to control all aspects of the food production system, they are promoting an industrial, chemical intensive model of agriculture. Under this model, inappropriate crops like thirsty, land-hungry sugar cane are being supported instead of more focus being put on crops indigenous to Africa like millet, cassava and sorghum. Besides displacing small scale farmers, this model of agriculture has led to a dramatic decrease in global seed diversity which could put African food and nutrition security at risk. Farmers' rights to save, breed, exchange and sell seed have been considerably diminished. The impacts of climate change are increasingly being felt in East Africa, while increased seed diversity can help farmers adapt to these effects. Agro-ecology encourages diversity at all levels, including seed diversity in order to increase farmers' resilience.
Vandana Shiva commented: "Globalized industrialized food is not cheap: it is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for our health. The Earth can no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide pollution, disappearance of species and destabilization of the climate. Farmers can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in industrial farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of producing safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food."
The AFSA case studies demonstrate these and other benefits of agro-ecology. The case studies, featuring successful projects in countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have been collected by Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), Greenpeace Africa and Third World Network, under AFSA, and the work has been funded by HIVOS and Oxfam Novib. Additional case studies will be uploaded to the AFSA website in the future, and oganisations and individuals who would like to submit case studies are welcome to do so via the website (www.afsafrica.org).