West Africa agroecology farmer organizing overview

June 3, 2015

 

EXAMPLE OF EFFECTIVE SMALL FARMER ORGANIZING. WEST AFRICA

Small food producers are the dedicated
and most often anonymous guardians of
biodiversity and eco-systems and the gifted
creators of many agro-ecological practices.
For decades both their knowledge and their
needs have been ignored by dominant agricultural
policies and programmes. It is when
these thousands and thousands of small
producers group together into organizations
capable of defending their interests
that real possibilities of advancing the agroecological
agenda emerge, for they represent
the majority of the population of most
developing countries, particularly in Africa.
Today’s peasant movement in West Africa
was born in the early ‘90s in reaction to
structural adjustment and the withdrawal
of state support for agriculture. From the
establishment of the Senegalese National
Council for Cooperation of Rural People
(CNCR) in 1993 to the formation of a regional
network of 10 West African national
peasant platforms (ROPPA) in 2000, the
construction of the movement has been
rapid and its political impact significant,
succeeding in enshrining family farming
and food sovereignty in agricultural
policies at national and regional levels.
From the outset the movement has been
attentive to ensuring that West African
peasant farming is not only family-based
and multifunctional, but also sustainable.
Participatory research has been conducted
to identify and exchange traditional agroecological
practices such as earth dams
in Burkina Faso (zai) or compost piles in
Senegal (sentaare). Cooperation has been
built up between peasant-led and official
research in areas like seed development and
multiplication.
In 1997, an FAO project supported
the Senegalese national platform’s
efforts to develop its own agroecologybased
agricultural strategy. A decade later
studies demonstrate that 95% of Senegal’s
farms are family-based. They produce
most of the food consumed in the country,
employ 50% of the population and contribute
to the sustainable management of
natural resources even under the pressure of
climate change.

A Viable Food Future, Editor: Aksel Nærstad, Senior Policy Adviser in Utviklingsfondet /the Development Fund (Norway)
The Development Fund /Utviklingsfondet Oslo, 21.
Norway. 2010, www.utviklingsfondet.no

 

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