Taking a Stand for Small Farmers

A Global Convening in Uganda in May to Amplify Agroecology Solutions

In 2014, Grain published a seminal report: Hungry for land: Small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland.  The report raised concerns on shrinking farmlands in the face of large, corporate agriculture and land grabs. Yet, remarkably, small farms continue to be more productive than large farms and are major food producers in the world.

The AgroEology Fund (the Fund) takes to heart the findings of the report.  The Fund was launched in 2012 to support leading small farmer organizations and advocates seeking a fair living for small producers based on sustainable land and water use. Small farmers today grow over 70% of food consumed globally and can restore degraded soil and ecosystems through agroecological practices. The Fund links organizations and movements that advance agroecological solutions locally, regionally and globally.  Over the past three years, the Fund has provided over $2.7 million in grants to alliances supporting viable food systems, the economic well-being of small farmers and their communities, and the mitigation of climate change through low-input agriculture.

This May, the Fund and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa are hosting a learning exchange among farmers and farmer advocates in Masaka, Uganda from May 10 – 13. Participants will gather from over 20 countries to amplify the application of agroecology around the globe. The learning exchange will be held at the St. Jude Rural Training Centre, an internationally-recognized center where techniques such as organic farming, soil conservation, and biodiverse gardening are taught. St. Jude Family Projects (St.Jude) is managed by the Kizza family, who has turned their small farm into a demonstration that has inspired thousands of visitors over the years.

The learning exchange is organized to encourage alternatives to a largely corporate-controlled, globalized food system that contributes to malnutrition, inadequate farmer income, fossil fuel dependence and massive migration. The World Food Program reports that Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. One in four people are  undernourished. Leaders from a global agroecology movement will be well-represented at the gathering for four days to share knowledge and experiences and debate strategies to build healthy and sustainable food systems.

We are thrilled to host this convening with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a Pan-African platform of networks and farmer organizations. AFSA influences policy in the area of community rights, family farming, promotion of traditional knowledge, environmental protection and natural resource management.

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3 thoughts on “Taking a Stand for Small Farmers

  1. Peter Gubbels

    It was inspiring to participate in the AEF learning exchange. I appreciated the perspective endorsed by the participants that amplifying agroecology requires context specific support for enabling small scale farmers adapt specific practices in a progressive transition to productive, resilience, sustainable and nutrition sensitive farming system. To amplifying this process requires support to agroecology as a science, and as a grassroots social movement.for change in policies and programmes.

    Unfortunately, there were not many participants from the french speaking Sahel region of Africa. Let me share some key information about our situation here, and the challenge of agroecology..

    Small scale dryland farmers in the Sahel are facing a chronic food and nutrition security crisis. This is caused by declining soil fertility, degradation of land, loss of tree and vegetative cover, and major climate change. Aside increasingly frequent drought and erratic rainfall, the Sahel is a region that climatologists say is going to be most affected by increased temperatures of up to 4 degrees celcius by 2050.

    If current millet and sorghum cropping systems do not change, sun and heat will reduce average yields from 15 to 40%.

    One of the key innovations farmers themselves, with the increasing support of NGOS are adapting to cope with this is “Farmer managed natural regeneration of trees” (FMNR). This is a form of agroforestry, By innovative ways of managing trees on crop lands (a simultaneous fallow) farmers can sustainably improve soil fertility, and reduce the effects of high temperatures through ‘dispersed shade”.

    FMNR is only one of several innovative agroecological practices in a transition process to transform local farming systems . Others include various soil and water conservation measures, effective use of crop residues, improved methods of composting;

    There is already evidence of how these agroecological practices work. The challenge for amplifying Agroecology is to strengthen the social movement dimensions, change the current agribusiness oriented agricultural policies, and re-rorient agricultural research and education, to create a vastly more supportive enabling environment. Without this, and innovative strategies for quickly spreading (horizontal scaling out) of the Agroecology process from successful experiences, the crisis will get worse. The two main opportunities or windows for influencing or changing policies are the current government priorities of “resilience” and adaptation to climate change.

    I hope our experience in the Sahel can contribute to this learning and exchange site. However, but we are also counting on the support of AEF and participants, to help us in the Sahel overcome our growing critical food and nutrition crisis. Please note that, every year, good rains or not, there are over 20 million people, mostly dryland farmers, that are dependent on humanitarian aid. More seriously, over 35% of all children suffering from irreversible physical and cognitive damage because of chronic malnutrition.

    Agroecology, in all 3 of its dimensions, is critically important as part of the solution to resolve this crisis in the Sahel. We look forward to the support in this struggle. from the Groundswell West Africa collaborative partners (CIKOD-Ghana, ANSD-Burkina Faso, Sahel Eco-Mali, Agrécol-Senegal)

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  2. Jennifer Astone

    Thanks so much Peter for your thoughtful reply to the posting. I agree that we in the AgroEcology Movement need to latch onto the twin ideas of resilience and adaptation to climate change as catalysts for change, AND at the same time, we cannot discount the contribution that Agroecological practices are making to mitigate climate change with the mixed cropping, intensive production systems. Agriculture cannot be ignored in the climate change plans of countries – land use is critical. Looking forward to learning more about your work in the Sahel where sustainable dryland farming practices are critical to human well-being.

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