Ecological Farming in Africa

Growing Food Sovereignty and Climate Resilience

Page - March 16, 2015

Despite this, food sovereignty remains a major problem for much of Africa.

In Africa, Greenpeace is campaigning to promote Ecological farming, a superior organic agriculture method with more biodiversity, organic soil fertilization, ecological pest management and practices which increase agro-biodiversity.

 

Who is Greenpeace?

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace Africa was established in 2008.

Our vision is built on sustainable equity and food sovereignty in which safe and healthy food is grown to meet fundamental human needs, and where control over food and farming rests with local communities, rather than transnational corporations.

Food production using ecological farming ensures healthy farming and healthy food for today and tomorrow, by protecting soil, water and climate, promotes biodiversity, and does not contaminate the environment with chemical inputs or genetic engineering.

The Problem

Industrial farming presents one of the most urgent threats to the environment and food security facing the world today. It relies on inputs of fossil-fuel intensive synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. These expensive inputs result in debt and economic insecurity for farmers, especially smallholders. This debt-driven agriculture is a big contributor to global climate change. It destroys biodiversity, degrades soils, pollutes land, freshwater and coastlines, creating health risks from field to fork, and consolidates control over the food system amongst a handful of corporate giants.

"We all are affected as the quality, taste and nutritional values of the food decrease. Also our health and the future of the next generation are at risk. “

Unknown, East African community member and consumer, February 2015

Impact on the environment

Agriculture contributes some 14% of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, mostly from the production and use of synthetic fertilisers and from livestock. Industrial agriculture relies on monocultures that destroy biodiversity, making crops more susceptible to pest infestations and in turn increasing the need for toxic pesticides. The lack of diversity in a monoculture (at the plant level, farm level and at ecosystem level) makes them less resilient. This means the system is vulnerable to shocks like extreme weather events.

 

The different levels of biodiversity on the farm (source: “Ecological farming: Drought-resistant agriculture” Greenpeace Research Laboratories, April 2010)

 

Impact on rural livelihoods

Reliance on external inputs (e.g. chemical fertilisers, pesticides) will make farmers vulnerable to price rises. This means that money flows out of the local economy and into global agribusiness at both ends of the farming process. Reliance on monoculture crops increases vulnerability to fluctuations in the cost of agrochemicals and the commodities market if the crops are destined for foreign markets.

Corporate agribusiness continues to consolidate the supply of inputs, farm production and food distribution, thereby gaining increasing control over our food system. This in turn leads to farmers being paid less for their produce and consumers paying more for their food.

Eco-agriculture is about feeding people. Industrial agribusiness is about feeding markets. 

Africa – the new frontier for expansion of industrial food production

Over recent years, Africa has emerged as a new frontier for the expansion of industrial agriculture. It is now THE battleground for future agricultural models, exemplified by the frightening pace of land-grabbing taking place across sub-Saharan Africa to feed global commodity markets. Since global agribusiness first turned its attention to Africa less than a decade ago, smallholder farmers are being ousted from their land so that industrial agriculture interests can move in. Initiatives like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition and the World Economic Forum's Grow Africa seem to be promoting a model of industrial agriculture that benefits big corporate agribusiness, over the needs of smallholder producers and rural communities. 

These initiatives are based on public-private partnerships and are jointly funded by Northern donor governments, private capital and philanthropic money. Although promoted as solutions to Africa’s food security challenges, these public private partnerships (PPP) are predominantly focused on boosting production of grains, oils and biofuels, much of which will be destined for export. It is an investment opportunity masked as a development solution.

"To get the money for inputs, people sell their crops and animals – the very items that they spent so much time, money and energy to raise! Each year the soil becomes unhealthier, so each year the farmer tries to buy even more fertiliser and seed."

SOURCE: WFP Malawi Manual "Low Input Food and Nutrition security: Growing and eating more with less

Why ecological farming?

The IAASTD report on Sub-Saharan Africa provides and refers to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in agroecological approaches can be highly effective in boosting food security, production, incomes and resilience to climate change and empowering communities[1]. An analysis assessing 114 cases in Africa revealed that the conversion of farms to organic methods increased agricultural productivity by 116%. In Kenya, maize yields increased by 71% and bean yields by 158%. Moreover, increased diversity in food crops available to farmers resulted in more varied diets and thus improved nutrition. Also the natural capital of farms (soil fertility, levels of agrobiodiversity, etc.) increased over time after conversion.[1]

“There is no doubt that small-scale farmers are the backbone of our economy. They are only not aware that they support our entire food production system. They just farm for their families and sell surplus.”- East African Policy Maker, February 2015

Our Goal

Our goal is to influence as many governments to change policies and tackle the growing corporate control of the food chain, so that public, private, and philanthropic money is shifted from industrial to ecological farming practices.


[1]    Altieri, M. A., Funes-Monzote, F. R., Petersen, P. 2011. Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: contributions to food sovereignty. Agron. Sustain. Dev. DOI 10.1007/s13593-011-0065-6

[2] Halberg, N., Alroe, H.F., Knudsen, M.T. & Kristensen, E.S. 2007. Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects. CABI Publishing. Source: El-Hage Scialabba, N.,2007. Organic  Agriculture  and Food Security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations www.fao.org/organicag