New project: Bringing agroecological alternatives to light in West Africa

(20.03.2017) For more than a decade now, agricultural development has been rising up the agenda for many African countries.

While industrial agriculture and ‘Green Revolution’ approaches promise short-term increases in productivity, they are yet to provide a convincing answer to the question of how countries can feed themselves now and in the future: reducing their reliance on imported food and farming inputs, adapting to climate change, sustaining the resource base and providing nutritious diets for all.

Over the course of 2017, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) will support and stimulate an open reflection on the future of agricultural development in West Africa (read the full concept note in English and French).

Welcoming the start of the project, IPES-Food co-chair Olivia Yambi stated: "The choices we make today will lock in future development pathways. It is critical that we ask whether the recipes currently on the table are really the key to building sustainable food systems in Africa."

Building on the panel’s 2016 report, From Uniformity to Diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems (also available in French), IPES-Food will work with local partners to explore how agroecology is understood and applied in the West African context, and what obstacles it faces.

Emile Frison, the lead author of IPES-Food’s 2016 report, said: “Agroecological alternatives are developing fast in West Africa, and are showing major potential to provide an exit strategy from industrial agriculture. However, these alternatives are yet to receive the attention they deserve.”

The key objectives of the project are to consolidate the knowledge base on agricultural alternatives, to support efforts to bring these alternatives to light, and to pave the way for a meaningful debate where different agri-development visions can be confronted and a way forward can be collectively defined.

“The process of alliance-building and mutual learning will be as important as the outcomes,” Yambi added.

IPES-Food is interested in hearing from all of those building, studying and advocating for sustainable food systems in West Africa, and invites those interested in collaborating to make contact as soon as possible.