By Tushar Narula and Tom Gard
Why do we need it ?
Climate change has created rifts in the formal ways of farming in Africa. The different methods used have less focus on the development of land sustainability and biodiversity. The recent push towards infrastructural development has threatened the farmed lands.
The ever continuing degradation of agricultural and landscape has impacted the ecosystems conservation of biodiversity and climate change negatively. Climate change models suggest median temperature increases between 3 and 4 °C in Africa by the end of the 21st Century, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response.
This will likely result in significant yield losses of key staple crops, such as maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, and cassava, of between 8 and 22 percent by 2050 unless key investments are made to improve agricultural productivity.
For example, Soil Erosion erupts as one of the alarming problems which is enhanced through climate change. In some cases, advanced stages of soil erosion, such as rill and gully erosions, can devastate entire areas, turning them unusable for agricultural purposes.
The devised Agro Ecology Framework intends to cultivate biodiversity for degradation mitigation, climate change adaptation and enhanced resiliency to climate change stressors. It works to empower rural-based smallholder farmers for degradation mitigation, climate change adaptation and resiliency through the utilization of different principles of Agro-ecology such as Agro Ecosystem Design. This would provide an area the organized structure required for maintenance and future sustainable development.
Why chose agro ecology ?
Agro-ecology has its root in ecology – the understanding of natural ecosystems it integrates the three science disciplines. It borrows work from social, biological and agricultural sciences and combines it with tradition and farmers’ knowledge. At its heart is the fact that a healthy agro-ecosystem should mimic the functioning of local ecosystems in order to enhance biodiversity and nutrient recycling by enabling farmers to boost and diversify their production.
What’s the approach?
This proposal development pathway is simple yet effective. It stops degradation of natural ecosystems through:
1) Bringing back biodiversity and build resilience capacity of agricultural farms and landscapes for enhanced food production and climate change adaptation/mitigation.
2 )Promoting agro-ecology as a natural, cost-effective and sustainable farming system locally and globally especially amongst smallholder farmers.
THE FRAMEWORK AND PROPOSED ACTIONS:
In order to realize the indicated objectives, this proposal proposes six (6) critical actions;
Establishment of a model agro-ecology farm, training of trainers (TOTs), development of farmer outreach programs, design of biodiversity action plans, choice of community crop insurance scheme and project. Monitoring/evaluation. Kenya is used as the example and the initial test bed for the framework as the situation curbs around the area. The example would contribute towards the locational guidance.
- Establishment of a Model Agro-ecology Farm: The establishment of a model agro-ecology farm is important in motivating, attracting and encouraging smallholder farmers to embrace agro-ecology. The model farm will also be used to train smallholder farmers on agro-ecology principles and practices. In addition educating farmers on practicality of agro-ecology, the farms will also earn revenue from the sale of farm produce. this revenue will be utilized in sustaining the project.
- Training of Trainers (TOT) : Training of trainers (TOTs) aims at recruiting and training of qualified personnel to work as agro-ecology extension officers (advisors) in rural areas. The advisors are to work closely with rural-based smallholder farmers at the village level in implementing agro-ecology principles and practices on their farms. It is important to point out that the necessary training materials are already available.
- Development of Outreach Programs: There is no uniform formula for implementing agro-ecology practices as it depends on ecological zone, culture and local tradition. The development of any outreach program must consider the existing habitat including flora and fauna within the implementation area. Therefore, outreach programs are to be developed only after visits and overview of targeted farms and/or landscapes. The project outreach programs developed will not only be for reaching out to farmers to promote agro-ecology but also educating and empowering the farmers.
- Design of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP): BAP allows for assessment of existing approaches with regard to local situations and existing flora and fauna. It is from assessment findings that agro-ecology extension officers are able to identify and implement the most appropriate agro-ecology practices to increase biodiversity.
- Choice of Community Crop Insurance Scheme: Unlike in the past when crop insurance policies only targeted agricultural companies, insurance companies in Kenya have now come to appreciate the importance of smallholder farmers. Appropriate crop insurance including community insurance schemes have already been developed.
- Project Monitoring and Evaluation: Like with any other project, the proposed project will be continually monitored and evaluated to identify and address any shortcomings and successes and it is critical particularly during the launching phase. Shortcomings will be addressed during the scale-up and replication of the project in other ecological zones.
The creation of an organized structure would create locational advantages and provide:
- Economic benefits – Cultivation/commercialization of traditional foods coupled with increased food production. These lead to marketing and trade opportunities for increased farm income.
- Environmental benefits – Diversified land use leading to increased biodiversity, water availability, healthy soils and improvement of micro-climate.
- Social benefits – Gender/social inclusion, food security, improved human health and recognition of tradition/culture as a key element of sustainability.
Who would be involved ?
- Smallholder Farmers:. Like other smallholder farmers in other parts of the world, smallholder farmers are hard-hit by the impacts of climate change. The farmers are always in search of and on the lookout for measures that they can employ on their farms to increase farm productivity.
- County Governments: Agriculture is a devolved function in Kenya. The development and implementation of agricultural policies and programs is the sole responsibility of county governments. The sale and provision of fertilizer and subsidized seeds is also the responsibility of county governments. Most importantly, targeted county governments (Machakos and Makueni) have already been consulted for allocation of agricultural land for the establishment of model agro-ecology farms with positive response and support.
- Cooperatives: Kenya has a well-developed cooperative movement with structures down to local towns that are easily accessible by smallholder farmers. providing their members with several services including savings accounts and micro-loans among other services.
- Insurance Companies: Indeed, crop insurance policies targeting both agricultural companies and smallholder farmers are already in place. However, the uptake of crop insurance by smallholder farmers remains is still low. This is mainly have not been educated and sensitized on the benefit of acquiring crop insurance.
- Research Institutions: Research institutions and in particular Kenya Forestry Service and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization have already been engaged on the possibility of seconding their researchers to the project to train project agro-ecology extension officers who will in turn be responsible for training farmers.
- Location: This project is specially designed for rural and peri-urban areas. Rural-based smallholder farmers feed city residents. Smallholder farmers are, therefore, better placed to implement agro-ecology practices to stop degradation of natural ecosystems, restore lost biodiversity and revamp ecosystem services. Kenya, where there are approximately 6 million smallholder farmers (producers and pastoralists) will take up and its activities to cover neighboring countries as Uganda and Tanzania.
“ To make agriculture sustainable, the grower has to be able to make the profit” : Sam Ferr .
The launch and implementation of this project is projected to cost US$9400. The project will hence be able to finance its scale-up and expansion programs through revenue generated from its model agro-ecology farms. The project will be self-sustaining after six (6) months of launching.
Farming has always served as a profession dependence. Improving the links between nature and people in this chain looks towards a sustainable future. The framework with its elements of organization and well rounded viewpoint would equip locations with a holistic toolkit for greater management. It is an addition to the first aid kit of Africa against climate change.