AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA
JULY 2015 | HOME & GARDEN | I.L. AUTHOR
Janet Maro (2nd from left) agronomist and Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania project manager teaches her Bustani ya Tusikamane (Garden of Solidarity) group. In 2013 she trained some 2700 farmers, 46% of whom were Women.
The news can be hard to face these days. And in the face of so much negativity, and even horror, from Boko Haram to ISIS via drone strikes, police racism and environmental catastrophe, sometimes it feels like all we have the energy to do is resist, and sometimes even that is soul sapping.
But there also come times when people propose new models of being and behaving that allow us to imagine that the world could be better. One such idea is that of agroecology, worldwide but especially in Africa. Here, the continent is currently in the midst of a rush for land that feels like the new Gold Rush – or indeed the new colonialism. The new gold might be rice for export or it might be crops for biofuel, but it’s generally not anything that will do Africa’s rural inhabitants any good…
Instead, a report just published by global justice campaigning organisation Global Justice Now, based in the UK, and informed by the likes of Tanzania sustainable agriculture champion "Janet Maro", puts forward an ideology that leaves power very much in the hands of the small rural food producer, rather than in the hands of the multinational companies that are currently hooking into Africa’s vast tracts of fertile lands with the help of Western aid money and easily persuaded local politicians.
With apocalyptic views of the future of food on Earth abounding and an already disastrously skewed system that produces more than enough for all but still lets millions starve, the search for a solution is pressing. But at a time when corporate power is at its zenith across sectors, the struggle to put across an alternative vision is hard. The vision in this report is compelling – informed both by top academics and researchers in the field but also by bold visionaries at the grassroots level. Fundamentally, the idea is a small-scale producer-led system that ensures people have sovereignty over their food supply at a local level.
Research by the UN shows that switching to agroecological farming methods has increased yields across Africa by 116% and by 128% in East Africa compared to conventional farming. Using these methods is said to impact positively on gender equality, help create work, improve health, increase biodiversity, and improve the resilience of food systems in the face of unpredictable climate change.