Today, conventional agriculture, despite its advanced technologies, is unable to solve the food security equation. Agro-ecology is a serious alternative, particularly in Africa, because it aims to promote a triply efficient agriculture, on the economic, social and environmental levels. 3 points to understand the challenges of agro-ecology in Africa.
Replicating in Africa the “green revolution” model of the 1960s while ignoring its social and environmental impacts. This is what governments and international agencies are trying to do: more agribusiness, more industrial agriculture.
Many initiatives, such as the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, are not intended to lift Africa out of poverty. Indeed, this industrial agriculture is all for the benefit of a few multinationals (commodity trading giants, seed companies…). It aims to impose a uniform agricultural and food model. Industrial agriculture occupies large areas of land in monoculture (cultivation of a single species of plant), always more greedy in chemical inputs and heavily mechanized. The consequences are disastrous: land grabbing, deforestation, destruction of soils and biodiversity, water pollution and increased risks for human health.
Another victim is family farming, which is weakened and even threatened with extinction. Farmers are forced to buy “improved” seeds and other chemical inputs, often having to go into debt to meet these costs.
Agro-ecology consists in rethinking the agricultural model so that it is economically efficient, environmentally friendly and ensures a good quality of life for the population.
Thus, the main practices implemented aim to: increase crop diversity by avoiding monocultures, promote biological recycling and the use of compost as a green manure, use plant cover that allows for the natural renewal of the soil in order to limit plowing, or optimize irrigation by reorganizing the land to save water consumption. All these practices combine traditional know-how and scientific innovations: a model perfectly adapted to the realities of African countries.
Agro-ecology thus seeks to enhance the value of peasant knowledge and know-how, to reduce external dependence on inputs, energy or inappropriate techniques, and above all to produce for the local market by promoting short circuits.
Even more so in Africa than elsewhere, the transition to agricultural practices linked to food security can only be achieved through working with small-scale producers who represent the overwhelming majority of the agricultural sector and produce 70% of the food.
One of the precursors of these practices is the Songhai farm in Benin. Founded in 1985, it did not exceed one hectare. Today, it covers 24 hectares and there are 17 Songhai farms in Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Songhai is the very symbol of agro-ecology in Africa: fertilizing the soil naturally, transforming agricultural products locally, recycling their own waste… Songhai’s yields speak for themselves: the farms generated nearly 7 billion CFA francs in sales in 2013 (about 10 million euros).
Another example, still in Benin, is the Gardens of Hope, agro-ecology farms with an educational component. Training young people in these practices that respect the environment and human beings remains a major challenge. That’s why DJOUMAN joins the Gardens of Hope and a handful of other associations to organize the 1st training camp 100% dedicated to agro-ecology, Agro Camp for Development, from March 14 to 21 in Bossito, Benin. Register now!