The AgroEcology Fund (AEF) and Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) organized an international learning exchange workshop on Agroecology in Masaka, Uganda from May 10 to 13, 2016. The learning exchange brought farmers, social movements, scientists and funders together at the beautiful farm of St. Jude Family Projects and Rural Training Centre to dialogue on amplifying agroecological solutions. About 90 people from 20 countries participated in this event.
The exchange was initiated by the AgroEcology Fund, a progressive consortium of trusts and foundations aiming to increase the volume and long-term effectiveness of agroecological solutions which mitigate the negative effects of climate change through research, advocacy, and movement building. 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 smallholder farmers and their communities, and the mitigation of climate change through low-input agriculture.
The learning exchange was 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. Designed by AEF and AFSA as a stimulating and participatory process and facilitated by ILEIA the convening was a success that helped each participant to learn about others’ works in amplifying agroecology and explore synergies to strengthen agroecology as a science, movement and practice. It also helped participants to deepen understanding of the current and future contribution of the AEF to amplifying agroecology.
Space was given for participants to define discussion topics, reflect in small groups and plenary sessions, participate, debate, and learn from each other. Interactive sessions such as poster making enabled participants to communicate their story diagrammatically, and a theatrical session made for a hilarious and bonding exchange of ‘Theories of Change’. Days were full – from the early morning mysticas to the intense focus discussions, onto the farm visits, and ending in late night conversations. Participants generated various topics for discussion. To mention but a few – ‘Agroecology schools, strengthening grassroots farmer organizations, policy advocacy for agroecology and funding agroecology’.
For each of the topics discussed, the key ideas and conclusions on what ‘works well and when’ are summarized in here – Download PDF.
The gathering recognized the vital role of farmer movements to amplify agroecological solutions and the power of local wisdom and women farmers to promote ecological and just food systems. The participants also declared that smallholder farmers, not GMOs, have the capacity to feed their families, local and international markets on organic food.
Regarding the threats on Uganda’s smallholder farmers and biodiversity that are paused by Uganda’s National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, AFSA’s Policy Advocate, Bridget Mugambe was quoted by The Observer, a local newspaper in Uganda, as saying, ‘Uganda has good soils and ample rainfall rendering genetic engineering unnecessary.’ Similarly, Mr. Bernard Guri, the Chairperson of AFSA was quoted by the same paper as saying, “It is only Africa that can solve African food shortage problems and Uganda should take the lead; the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill is simply seeking to give rights of food production to foreign countries.” Uganda’s National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill is now before the parliamentary Committee in Science and Technology. If it gets passed into an Act, it will pave way for the introduction of GMOs in the country. Jennifer Aston, Executive Director of the Swift Foundation also said, “we are greatly concerned about the current biotechnology and biosafety bill being proposed here in Uganda. We find it troubling if a country which is fourth in the production of organic food in the world and Africa opts for the unknown.”
For AFSA the convening was an excellent opportunity to strengthen its relationships with member organization PELUM and its constituency St. Jude. St. Jude Rural Training Centre is an internationally-recognized centre where techniques of organic farming, soil conservation and biodiverse gardening are taught. By producing enough food for household consumption and local market, St. Jude demonstrated that agroecology can feed the world as witnessed by participants from across the six continents.
The AFSA Secretariat sincerely thanks the AgroEcology Fund, ILEIA, St. Jude Family Projects and all participants for adding strength and solidarity to a growing agroecology movement.
Sharing Missing Stories of Food Sovereignty
During the Agroecology Learning Exchange in Masaka, Uganda, the International Development Exchange (recently renamed Thousand Currents) and Voice of Witness announced to partner on a launching of a collaborative book and outreach project to highlight the urgent, inspiring stories of women, youth, and indigenous farmers and leaders in South Africa and Zimbabwe who are going against the grain to supply and demand healthy and sustainably-grown food. These stories of individuals are hoped to offer readers ‘an engaging, humanizing understanding of farmers’ role in building food sovereignty in their communities.’ To read the full press release click here: Voice of Witness and IDEX Partner to Share Missing Stories of Food Sovereignty.