Voices from the field

Voice from the field 1

From crisis to Agroecology

Ferdinand Wafula, Bio Gardening Innovations (BIOGI), Kenya.

Western Kenyan smallholder farmers must change due to global upheavals. George and Violet are among thousands of families in Khwisero, Kakamega County, changing their farming methods.

Due to COVID-19, George lost his job as many businesses closed. George moved his family from Nairobi two years ago. He was a painter promoting a company’s products during the pandemic. Violet, his wife, thought it was good riddance because she would have more muscle to till the land.

Working on the land with his wife had its own challenges and thrills to George. Failed rains, late planting, and sharp price increases in basic commodities, especially farm inputs, hit George like thunder.

Maize was no longer a staple crop. Crop yields had been falling. A young family with school-aged children couldn’t survive with three bags instead of six.

Violet was quick to learn about a nature-friendly farming training from her peers. In 2021, BIOGI trained her as a trainer. Vihiga-based NGO BIOGI works in Kakamega’s Khwisero Subcounty.

Crop diversity, livestock integration, and soil fertility through bio inputs sank like water on fertile ground, and new seeds of hope sprouted. Her farm has several local crops. Sweet potatoes, cassava, local green vegetables, groundnuts, and bananas are some of them.

“I no longer stress about inputs,” she says. I make biostimulants and use sweet potatoes and ground nuts to supplement, if not replace, maize.”

BIOGI and AFSA’s training was adopted by the family early on. The Healthy Soils Healthy Food Project is being implemented across the farm. The family thanks the initiative’s supporters and hopes to learn more through future interactions and training.

Voice from the field 2

Cuban agroecology and resilience to hurricanes

The Farmer to Farmer Agroecology Movement (MACAC) is a grassroots movement inside of the Cuban National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), which is a member of the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina. In it, campesino (peasant farmer) members of ANAP have been transforming their productive systems by applying the principals of agroecology since 1997.

Revolutionary resilience

“On an agroecological farm, if one thing doesn’t make it, another one will. There’s always something to eat. It doesn’t matter what happens.” — Nini, agroecological farmer and member of ANAP.

Due to Cuba’s geography, it is susceptible to declines in agricultural production as a result of

constant natural disasters. The greater biological and human resilience of agroecological systems to the effects of climate change is, without a doubt, an important factor to the success of MACAC.

Over the years, Cuban farmers have witnessed the benefits of agroecology in the face of hurricanes: farms with a greater level of agroecological integration have suffered less in the face of such phenomena. This may be partially explained by the fact that agroecological systems suffer less from erosion and landslides due to greater implementation of soil conservation practices (contour planting, gulley control, greater use of cover crops, etc.). Fewer crops are lost when multiple strata of vegetation exist. Aside from the fact that agroecological farm losses in the face of hurricanes (unlike those of conventional monoculture) are not total, farms with greater levels of agroecological integration recover much more quickly.

The increase in food prices in the international market, as well as the price of inputs indispensable to conventional agriculture, obliges us to consider an alternative model which creates less dependency. Agroecology and MACAC offer the path to food sovereignty in Cuba – assuring greater resilience in the face of climatic adversities; restoration of soils degraded by intensive agrochemical use; and healthy food – while also providing an example, source of ideas, and inspiration for other countries.

More info here.

Voices from the field 3

The Food Box Initiative: rebuilding female-led food systems in Gaza

Gaza Urban and Peri Urban Platform (GUPAP) and Urban Women Agripreneurs Platform (UWAF), Palestine.

In the Gaza Strip, GUPAP supported the formation of the Urban Women Agripreneurs Platform (UWAF) in 2019 to unite and empower women agricultural producers and workers, and build an independent, resilient food system for al Palestinians. In the protracted crisis context of Gaza, food insecurity and restricted access to quality land, seeds and breeds, and to water and the sea has resulted in a decline in self-sufficiency, exacerbating the vulnerability of local communities to hunger. GUPAP-UWAF strategies have focused on reducing dependency on international markets, promoting/using what is locally available, decreasing the ecological footprint of food production and distribution, and rebuilding women owned farms.

An important initiative was raising funds through crowdfunding to buy local food from 52 women farmers whose livelihoods were destroyed in the May 2021 bombings, and distributing this food to vulnerable women facing social and health related crises through food box that included grains, fresh produce, preserved, and medicinal foods. This initiative was supported by local non-governmental organisations and the Ministry of Agriculture in identifying beneficiaries, inspecting food items for quality control and distributing the food boxes. 

The Food Box action was a community-based approach that was owned and led by women. It supported 52 women farmers by marketing their products at fair prices, and 473 women and their families facing particular vulnerable conditions.  Equally important, the initiative shows how solidarity across small-scale food producers, entrepreneurs, local governments and people can be operationalised to design local solutions in a situation of protracted crisis that Gaza has been facing.

This testimony is drawn from the report:  Solidarity marketing campaign to enhance resilience of UWAF members in the Gaza strip

Voices from the field 4

How are small-scale farmers in Sri Lanka dealing with the food crisis?

S.M.N. Maheshika Premachandra, Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), Sri Lanka.

As Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in decades; around 30% of Sri Lankans are coping with food insecurity, and one out of four are and one out of four are skipping meals regularly. While the rest of the country is struggling with food accessibility and therefore a nutritional diet, rural smallholder farmers were quite able to fulfil their food based needs in their households thanks to being who they are. In Sri Lanka, close to 1.65 million smallholder farmers are responsible for 80% of total food production. An estimated 40% of households in the country are agricultural households, 94% of which are engaged in crop production activities and 12% in livestock farming.

In rural Sri Lanka, not only the farmers were able to feed their families, also those who around them were able to share or buy fresh produce from the farmers. Their way of farming was not heavily affected by the chemical fertilizer or pesticides shortage; in fact, they were able to explore and expand more in to natural farming methods with growing demand of food in the near markets and them being more experienced to farm with out chemicals. However, rural and urban households are depleting their savings or using credit to buy other dry-essentials due to increasing market prices.

However, In the “farming estates sector” which includes tea plantations and other similar “estates,” more than half of households live with food insecurity as they have been for years. These households are worse off than urban populations and other rural residents. Most of the estate communities in up country don’t possess land to cultivate: don’t have enough room to even pant a small chili tree. Most young women in the estate households are compelled to seek job opportunities as house maids in middle east; in fact, significant portion of the work-related migration during the first quarter of this year, comes from estate communities.