When I ask people what the backbone of most African economies is, the response is often a unanimous, “agriculture”.
It goes without dispute that agriculture is the most important and largest contributor to the gross domestic product of most African economies. It also provides the livelihood for about 80% of the people in the region.
The importance of this sector is reflected in the launch of a set of case studies on ecological farming today in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The case studies have been collected by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) – who Greenpeace Africa is working with on this project. During the launch today, the Alliance will shine a light on a way of farming that’s improving the lives of small-scale farmers across the continent.
Renowned environmental activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva is also here to lend her support to the cause, speaking out about the impacts of industrial chemical-intensive agriculture on small-scale farmers around the world.
12 June 2014
A woman inspects a crop of sorghum in Kenya
This woman is part of a community-based organisation that trains farmers and promotes ecological agriculture and other development technologies among small-scale farm holders in Kenya.
Ecological farming is a way of growing food that works in harmony with nature -- not against it. While chemical-intensive agriculture uses artificial fertilizers and pesticides to alter the environment, ecological farming works to enrich the soil and protect crops in ways that don't destroy the ecology of the surrounding environment.
Sorghum is a genus of numerous species of grasses, one of which is raised for grain and many of which are used as fodder plants, either cultivated or as part of pasture.
The reality is that most of the food consumed in Sub-Saharan Africa is produced by small-scale farmers. However, African governments have been opting to support industrial agriculture instead. What it means is that the needs of small-scale farmers are effectively ignored in favour of the profits of large multinational corporations.
Industrial agriculture focuses on commodity crops which are often not suited to the given region. Take thirsty and land-hungry sugar cane for example, which is often grown at the expense of food crops that are indigenous to Africa -- crops like millet, cassava and sorghum.
Focusing on single crops and varieties of crops has a negative impact on global seed diversity and ultimately threatens food security in Africa. Crops that are bred with a singular focus on production of a uniform harvest are often susceptible to pest attacks, meaning farmers need to use increasing amounts of dangerous pesticides on their crops.
It is for these reasons that AFSA, along with its partners, is gathering case studies to show the importance of supporting small-scale farmers to use ecological farming.
We are proud to work with AFSA on this project, and to be campaigning for ecological farming that champion’s diversity. So while the rest of world gathers in Brazil to celebrate diversity through football, we’re in Dar es Salaam to celebrate diversity in food and farming.