West Africa agroecology farmer organizing overview
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