‘Time for the West African agroecology movement to speak with a united voice’ - Alliance for Agroecology in West Africa (‘3AO’) launched in Dakar
(8 May – Dakar) Agroecology holds the key to building a sustainable future for millions of people in West Africa and must take its place at the top of the political agenda.
This was the message from farmers’ organizations, social movements, scientific groups and international agencies as they gathered in Dakar to develop a strategy for transition to agroecology.
The two-day kick-off meeting (April 19-20) was co-convened by IPES-Food and ROPPA, and brought together representatives of farmers’ organizations from 8 West African countries.
Participants agreed a Roadmap of actions to promote agroecology at local, national and regional levels, including activities to build and spread agroecological knowledge among farmers (e.g. training, participatory research), steps to consolidate the agroecology movement (e.g. mapping of agroecological initiatives) and the development of tools for effective political advocacy (policy briefs; ranking of current policies in different countries).
To coordinate these efforts over the coming year, the Alliance for Agroecology in West Africa* (‘3AO’ - Alliance pour l’Agroécologie en Afrique de l’Ouest) was launched.
Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and IPES-Food co-chair, said: “Too often the case for agroecology has been made without the most important actors at the table - farmers. It is time to bridge the divide between researchers, advocacy groups and farmers, so that West Africa’s growing agroecology movement can speak with a united voice. When it does, policymakers will have to listen.”
Ibrahima Coulibaly, vice-president of ROPPA**, warned: “Agroecology is no longer just an option - it is a political necessity. We need to ensure that farmers can make a living from agroecology, and that agroecology can become the solution to prevent rural youth from dying at sea, going to work in the mines, flocking to the cities.”
The stakes are high in West Africa, where agriculture accounts for 65% of regional employment, where 36 million people continue to suffer from hunger, and where regional production still fails to meet the needs of a population that has already reached 371 million - and is expected to double by 2050.
Participants at the kick-off meeting identified strong momentum and growing legitimacy around agroecology, following the FAO's 2nd International Symposium on Agroecology (April 2018), Nyeleni’s 10 year anniversary summit (September 2017), IPBES’ wake-up call on ecosystem degradation (March, 2018), and a series of events across West Africa - including Enda Pronat’s ‘Agroecology Days’ in February 2018, and the FAO Regional Agroecology Symposium in 2015.
However, they agreed that a range of political obstacles and unfavourable incentives must be overcome. A key challenge is to show that agroecology works - through scientific documentation, through farmer field schools, through training and extension, through coordinated communications, and through well-targeted political advocacy. Another challenge is to align economic incentives with sustainability indicators, and to create the necessary political will.
“We need to broaden our movement, hand in hand with peasants across West Africa,” Coulibaly and De Schutter said, welcoming the creation of the 3AO Alliance and the willingness of partners to commit themselves to a series of coordinated actions.
Read the kick-off meeting summary and 3AO Roadmap of Actions (currently available in French only)
**ROPPA (Réseau des organisations paysannes et de producteurs de l’afrique de l’ouest) is a West African network gathering farmer's organizations and agricultural producers from 13 countries in the region. ROPPA’s main objective is to stand up for, promote, and support family farming, which is key to all agricultural production systems in West Africa. On the 18th of April 2018, ROPPA adopted a position paper on Peasant Agroecology, stating that it is the best approach to preserve and promote cultural identities, local knowledge and know-how, food and seed biodiversity, and autonomy. Through this paper, ROPPA committed itself to act upon the development of peasant agroecology in West Africa, and to advocate for the integration of agroecology-based policies at the national and regional level.
***The 6th plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in March 2018 approved a three-year assessment report by more than 100 leading experts from 45 countries, showing that worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the well-being of two fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change.