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Improving Climate Resilience & Sustainability of Farming & Food systems in Africa: Exploring the contribution of Agroecology

Insights from the 8th African Agribusiness and Science Week

On 6 June 2023, DeSIRA-LIFT, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and  the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) jointly hosted a parallel session during the FARA-led 8th African Agribusiness and Science Week (AASW8), focusing on “Improving Climate Resilience and Sustainability of Farming and Food Systems: Exploring the Contribution of Agroecology“. The session brought together 143 participants representing a wide range of stakeholders, from policy, research, farmer organisations, and the private sector.


During the session, diverse stakeholders shared experiences and evidence of how various actions aligned with agroecology can contribute to climate change resilience and the sustainability of farming and food systems in African countries. It also explored how agroecology and enhanced agrobiodiversity could inform the transition to more sustainable, inclusive, nutrition-sensitive and climate-resilient food systems in Africa. The event concluded with discussions on the specific actions and policies needed to facilitate this transition.


Key points discussed included:

  • The urgent need for climate change adaptation and to some extent mitigation solutions to strengthen the resilience and ensure the sustainability of Africa’s food and farming systems, amidst the escalating impacts of increasing temperatures, floods, drought, and extreme heat.
  • There are various interpretations of Agroecology (a social movement, ecological practice, and discipline), and attempts to build consensus e.g., FAO’s 10 elements of agroecology (FAO 2018) 13 principles of agroecology (HLPE 2019)
  • Agroecology can increase adaptive capacity and resilience. A review of 77 cases of agroecological treatments relative to a baseline of conventional practices in low- and middle-income countries led to climate change adaptation across multiple contexts, particularly through diversification, organic nutrient sources, and integrated pest management. Crop yields were higher for 63% of cases reporting yields.
  • Organic fertilisers can be a good option to reduce post-harvest waste, boost crop yield and improve soil quality and support smallholders.
  • Agroecology can yield higher returns and strengthen adaptive capacities, although it may incur higher costs and take longer to achieve benefits. It also prompts consideration of the wider food system.
  • The potential of digital tools to support agroecology needs further research.
  • The development of youth-led agroecological farms (e.g., in Togo) offer multiple opportunities to youth in acquiring and implementing agroecological practices, providing employment and supplying local markets.
  • Agroecology-aligned actions can create opportunities for farmers and local enterprises.
  • The potential of agroecologically-informed transitions of African agrifood systems through co-designed technologies and diverse sources of knowledge supporting localized solutions such as the use of biofertilisers. The growing political will and commitment by African decision makers and researchers to ensure agricultural climate resilience requires urgent actions.
  • Agrobiodiversity, including the use of neglected and underutilized species (NUS), contributes to climate resilience and food security. Underutilized crops (e.g.  durum wheat in Ethiopia) can show great resilience to the impacts of climate change and pest pressures, but do not attract enough commercial interest.
  • There is a need for evidence-based impact assessment of agroecological practices to inform scaling up and investments.
  • Multistakeholder initiatives to address climate change and promote agroecology such as the Alliance for Agroecology in West Africa (3AO), comprising farmers’ organisations, research institutes, NGOs, and social movements, show successes in supporting agroecology at policy, investment and practice levels.


In conclusion:

  • Consideration of agroecology-informed transitions of farming and food systems should start with the challenges and opportunities related to the needs and priorities in a specific African context, considering interests and influences at local, national, regional and global levels.
  • Enhancing farmers’ productivity and income, facilitating market access, and ensuring that agroecology is closely linked to innovation and novel approaches for value chain organization and resource management remains a priority.
  • More scientific research is needed to measure the multi-dimensional aspects of agroecology and food systems, but also prioritise practices with evidence of working.
  • Fostering dialogues that encourages mutual learning and involves a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives is key. It remains critical to consider research-based evidence, but this needs to be part of a learning and change process which is informed by knowledge and experiences from different members of society: e.g., farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers, civil society members.
  • Dialogue and co-learning processes where different knowledge and experiences are shared need to be organized with all relevant partners, including regional research organizations, regional economic communities, and governments. This will enable reflection, co-design and implementation of policies, investments and other changes at all levels that support a transition to more climate resilient and sustainable farming and food systems, informed by agroecology.

Watch the event's recording



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