FAO Regional Meetings: Keeping the Agroecology Drum Beating

BY MILLION BELAY, ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IN AFRICA, 12 JUNE 2016


In November 2015, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food facilitated participation of 36 local food movement leaders in the FAO Regional Meetings on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa and Asia. These FAO events were the first-ever transnational meetings on agroecology in these regions and represented a key step within FAO to elevate regional and national dialogue about the viability of agroecology as a solution for the future of food.

“Participation in these meetings allowed me to better understand technical terminology related to agroecology on one hand, and on the other, very practical information… of great interest are the ways that other organizations build the leadership of low-income rural women. I will be sharing all that I learned within our organization, and this will in turn be conveyed to our communities through our Community Radio Programs.”
Olivia Hema, Munyu Women’s Association of the Camoé, Burkina Faso

The Global Alliance sees the future of our planet and communities as being intrinsically linked to the health, equity, resilience, renewability and cultural diversity of food and agriculture systems globally. We supported NGO and other civil society leaders, farmers, fisherfolk and pastoralists to attend these meetings because we feel strongly that diverse voices with experience working in the field must be amplified as we consider pathways for more sustainable food and agriculture systems.

What we heard from funded attendees, including Million Belay, is that when social movement leaders take part in preparing, facilitating and reporting back at meetings like these, and participants from across sectors are included, it makes a substantive difference to the nature of the dialogue – and has an impact on the up-take of recommendations and outcomes.

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In my role working with farmers in agricultural, forest and agro-pastoral contexts, and being one of the leaders of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the largest network dedicated to this issue in the region, the FAO Regional Meeting on Agroecology in Sub-Saharan Africa, held in Dakar in November 2015, was an important opportunity for me to ensure that the interests of food producers are reflected as part of the FAO process, and to strengthen our network.

AFSA, having been invited to sit on the Advisory Panel for the FAO Regional Meetings, was presented with an opening to raise the profile of the evidence we’ve been collecting and to mobilize as a network around the issues that are pressing in our region, including the push for a ‘green revolution,’ the corporatization of our seeds, and the erosion of the knowledge of farmers through knowledge substitution due to market-oriented agriculture.

Through support from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, and by being included in the preparation and execution of the meeting itself, we felt that space was made at the table to hear voices from the ground.

In order to prepare for the event, AFSA reached out to other networks and individual organizations to be part of the preparatory processes. We produced a statement with those who joined us and a range of organizations and networks signed this statement.

From my perspective, the recommendations focusing on agroecological research, creating market incentives to food producers, opening a space for agroecology in policy arenas, and the creation of an agroecology platform, are all elements that AFSA can stand behind as an advocacy agenda. It will also be important for the FAO to hear the demand for creating access to natural resources for women, youth and other stakeholders.

In the future it will be important for the FAO to address the implications of agroecology for the CAADP (Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all), which is strongly oriented towards supporting agri-business.

All in all, I feel the regional meeting was a great beginning. The relationship that we and other organizations have established with the FAO will hopefully allow us to contribute to the influencing of policy at key policy spaces in Africa, including the African Union and the Regional Economic Commissions. I urge civil society and its supporters to continue to engage in this conversation and to continue to broaden the space for diverse stakeholders as part of this dialogue.

Million Belay, PhD, is founder of the MELCA-Ethiopia NGO and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), and is an expert and advocate for forestry conservation, resilience, indigenous livelihoods, and food and seed sovereignty.

For more information, contact Lauren Baker, Strategic Initiatives and Programs, Consultant: lauren@futureoffood.org