The Slow Food initiative has announced that it will be setting up what it dubs as an agroecology and alternative food system that operates in both Kenya and Uganda, in conjunction with the Biovision Foundation. The goal is to improve the livelihoods of local farming communities in these countries.
The news was announced by Slow Food Vice president Edie Mukiibi and John Kuiriki, the coordinator and vice president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, via a press release.
“Slow Food has been promoting agroecological practices for many years, achieving significant results and making a name for itself as one of the most reliable partners in the field,” Mukiibi said.
“Through this project, we aim to improve the livelihoods of local farming communities in Kenya and Uganda by promoting a transition to an agroecological food system, building alliances and strengthening the contribution of Slow Food initiatives to making agroecology the agriculture of the future.”
What precisely is agroecology?
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agroecology is defined as “an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems”.
“It seeks to optimise the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system,” the FAO said.
“Agroecology is not a new invention. It can be identified in scientific literature since the 1920s, and has found expression in family farmers’ practices, in grassroots social movements for sustainability and the public policies of various countries around the world. More recently, agroecology has entered the discourse of international and UN institutions,” it further stated.
The agroecology and alternative food system project is underway and will continue until the end of 2022, and it’s aim is to invest in partnerships with agroecological organisations in an effort to build alliances. Another aim is for Slow Food to contribute more than it currently is.
According to the organisation, the world’s rich agricultural biodiversity is at risk and this has a knock-on effect with the capacity of food systems to provide sufficient food security and thus, dignified livelihoods.
“Despite an increase increasing global recognition of the importance of agroecology, it has received insufficient attention from policymakers and researchers, who have instead focused on expanding the yields of a few select crops with the use of improved seed, hybrids and GMOs, as well as large quantities of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides,” Karuiki said.
Aligned with climate change goals
“In East Africa, the effects of climate change are affecting local communities with alternating periods of drought and localised flooding. The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated a range of long-standing challenges such as the dependence of small-scale farmers on the purchase of seeds and fertilisers, limited access to markets and scarce availability of local, healthy and nutritious food at affordable prices,” he added.
The project’s goals align with those of the Paris Climate Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, in addition to the Agenda 2030 and SDGs. In recent years, the FAO has taken the lead on agroecology, which has sparked increased attention from a variety of organisations throughout the world as a viable solution to climate change and the interconnected difficulties that face food systems.
“Over the years, policies in East African countries have focused mostly on crop agriculture and intensive livestock breeding systems, neglecting the importance of indigenous crops, wild food plants and livestock breeds; rural communities have benefitted little from the strong focus on agricultural growth. In Kenya the sustainable use of land and the boosting of household food resilience were recently defined as priorities in the Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy 2019-2029. In Uganda, in 2019, a process for the development of a national strategy for scaling up of agroecology was started.”