This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about our exciting new Regeneration initiative.
The AgroEcology Fund (AEF) is a multi-donor fund committed to supporting diverse individuals and groups around the world – from women’s cooperatives to university scientists – to develop agroecological solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on their environment and livelihoods. The fund aims to enhance collaboration among different organisations and to increase the volume and long-term effectiveness of research, advocacy, and movement-building to regenerate ecosystems and develop more sustainable food systems.
In its first round of funding the AEF awarded a grant to Groundswell International, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to strengthening the capacity of rural communities to build healthy food and farming systems. In collaboration with partner organisations in Mali, Burkina Faso, and northern Ghana, Groundswell International was able to use this grant to strengthen and amplify existing farmer-led initiatives and organisations, especially those led by women, to spread agroecological farming systems, reinforce movements for food sovereignty, and advocate for policies supportive of agroecology.
These community-based initiatives were designed to dramatically improve and scale up West Africa’s agroecology movement over two years, directly restoring and protecting land and water resources in the region and promoting soil fertility and crop nutrition.
Collaboration was key to the success of this programme. Partners working with Groundswell included US-based think tank Food First, the Netherlands-based publisher of Farming Matters, the Centre for Learning on Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA); and Groundswell’s local partners in Mali (Sahel Eco), Burkina Faso (Association Nourrir Sans Détruire, ANSD), and Northern Ghana (Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development, CIKOD).
Woman pruning tree in Ghaba, FMNR
In Upper West Ghana, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) – a drought resilience agroforestry technique – gained traction under the leadership of CIKOD, a local NGO that works with traditional chieftaincy authorities in the region. The initial results in 2014 in promoting the adoption of FMNR and agroecology technologies demonstrate the success of this approach:
At least 1,778 farmers, including 571 women, applied FMNR on their farms.
Women leaders mobilised family farmer groups and women’s savings and credit groups (susu) to strengthen local organisational capacity to foster agroecological farming.
Farmers advanced agroecological practices such as mounding, grass and household waste composting, soil mulching, recycling crop residue and the application of animal manure.
Traditional seeds were promoted, along with raising awareness about the hazards of pesticides for human health.
In terms of advocacy, the group successfully combined community-level extension work with a national level policy campaign – in collaboration with the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana and Action Aid Ghana – to suspend the passage of the pro-GMO Plant Breeder’s Bill.
Photo: Woman Pruning Tree in Ghaba, FMNR.
In eastern Burkina Faso, local partner organisation ANSD trained farmer volunteers from 60 different villages to undertake on-farm experimentation with agroecological techniques. The workshops involved men and women farmer-leaders, staff of local NGOs, and technicians from Burkina Faso’s agricultural research agency (INERA). ANSD and INERA collaborated to share effective practices with farmers based on the understanding that spreading agroecological innovations depends not only on convincing individual farmers, but also on strengthening farmer organisations capable of disseminating information and sustaining results.
In Mali, the main focus was on citizen advocacy to create enabling conditions for the spread of agroecology practices and policies.
The collaboration has contributed to the wider movement for food sovereignty in the region. Key messages were disseminated widely by Food First and through ILEIA’s magazine, Farming Matters, which is distributed worldwide in five languages. The collaborative approach to the design of the project demonstrated that a joint, grounded effort to strengthen strategies for scaling agroecological alternatives in specific regions of three West African countries could be leveraged by all to strengthen their work in other organisational spaces. Sahel Eco, ANSD and CIKOD have formed a West Africa agroecology network that has been accepted as a member of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a continent-wide coalition. The network is contributing to regional and continent-wide advocacy work through its on-the-ground work with farmers.
Collaborative approaches to agroecology in West Africa are starting to have an impact on revitalizing traditional food systems, improving food security and nutrition and empowering more marginalized groups in society. They are also helping to regenerate habitats, plant native trees and restore soil nutrients and are slowly bringing plants and animals back to areas where nature has been degraded or even lost. You can read about other partners using agroecology to regenerate ecosystems here.
Earlier blogs in our Regeration series: