Agroecology: Better farming model for Africa

Tuesday June 16 2020

Women at a farm in Kenya. Most African farming being subsistence and smallholder, agroecology is considered a better option. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Only a fraction of agricultural research funding in Africa goes into transforming the food and farming systems, with most of it “still reinforcing damaging industrial models,” whereas agroecology is the better option.

Agroecology is the study of ecological processes and their application to agricultural production to improve farmers’ livelihoods and food availability. Most African farming being subsistence and smallholder, agroecology is considered a better option.

According to Money Flows, a report about funding in agricultural development, compiled by Biovision, IPES-Food and the UK-based Institute of Development Studies, agroecology is emerging as a viable pathway for building sustainable and resilient food systems. It has the potential to reconcile the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability. The report was released on June 10.

Unfortunately, investment in research in agroecology is limited in Africa, says the report, keeping its application and funding marginal.


“Development aid channelled into agricultural research, education and extension has stagnated over the past 10 years, representing only 14 per cent of agricultural aid in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017,” says the report.


“Most governments still favour ‘green revolution’ approaches, with the belief that chemical-intensive, large-scale industrial agriculture is the only way to produce sufficient food,” said Biovision president Hans Herren.

These approaches “have failed ecosystems, farming communities, and an entire continent. With the compound challenges of climate change, pressure on land and water, food-induced health problems and pandemics such as Covid-19, we need change now, and this starts with money flowing into agroecology,” he added.

“We need to change funding flows and unequal power relations. It’s clear that in Africa as elsewhere, vested interests are propping up agricultural practices based on an obsession with technological fixes that is damaging soils and livelihoods, and creating a dependency on the world’s biggest agri-businesses. Agroecology offers a way out of that vicious cycle,” said Olivia Yambi, co-chair of IPES-Food.