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Improving Climate Resilience and Sustainability of Farming and Food Systems: Exploring the Contribution of Agroecology

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and DeSIRA-LIFT are co-organizing a hybrid dialogue on “Improving Climate Resilience and Sustainability of Farming and Food Systems: Exploring the Contribution of Agroecology.” This event will be held in the margins of the 8th African Agribusiness and Science Week  in Durban, South Africa, on 6 June 2023, from 11:00 to 13:00 CEST.




Agriculture and food systems are highly exposed and vulnerable to climate change and variability.  Increasing temperatures, increasing heat waves, dry spells and droughts, more frequent and intense rainfall events, and the unpredictability of rainfall intersect with socioeconomic, political, and environmental factors (Trisos et al., 2022). The effects of the climate crisis put pressure on domestic food systems and on ecosystems with social and environmental impacts including higher health risks and the emergence of new pests and diseases for plants, animals, and humans.


To achieve food security alongside other social, environmental, and economic outcomes, there is a need for a transition towards more climate-resilient, inclusive, nutrition-sensitive, and sustainable farming and food systems. There is widespread agreement on the need to improve and diversify production while respecting the environment, but not on how this may be achieved amongst stakeholders in the diverse farming and food systems of Africa. At the global level, there is increasing interest in agroecology (variously as a science, practice, and social/ political movement) in relation to sustainable farming and food systems (HLPE, 2019; Carlile and Garnett, 2021; Wezell et al, 2022). In the most recent set of IPCC reports, Trisos et al (2022) conclude that ecosystem-based adaptation can reduce climate risk while providing social, economic, and environmental benefits and that agroecological practices can increase the resilience and sustainability of food systems in the African region. The 15th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity target 10 states the need for a substantial increase in the application of biodiversity-friendly practices, such as sustainable intensification, agroecological, and other innovative approaches.


In line with agroecology, agro-biodiversity at the farm and landscape level, including agroforestry and mixed cropping and integration of neglected and underutilized species (NUS), has a critical role to play in better meeting the nutritional needs of rural and urban communities, to create income-generating opportunities for youth, farmers, and women and to help respond to climate change and its effects on agriculture. Mainstreaming NUS into local food production systems would increase the resilience of the livelihood system of rural and remote communities and strengthen their socio-economic development (Padulosi et al., 2013).


In order to be more productive, resilient, and sustainable, agricultural actors and systems must adapt to local socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental conditions. Some of the agricultural practices to consider to increase climate change resilience and adaptation include (i) Diversification of crop and livestock species and varieties; (ii) Use of climate-resilient and sustainable practices and technologies to improve the efficiency of farming systems and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. the use of traditional plant varieties and stress-tolerant NUS, precision irrigation, conservation tillage, the use of renewable energy sources, water conservation, etc.); (iii) Integrated pest and weed management strategies, including the use of biological controls, crop rotation and intercropping, cover cropping and the planting of pest-resistant crop varieties; (iv) Agroforestry and livestock farming systems to contribute to improving soil health, reducing erosion and CO2 emissions, and providing shade for crops and livestock.


Andrieu and Kebede Y (2020) suggest that agroecology supports climate change adaptation and mitigation outcomes most directly by promoting resilience, diversification, efficiency, synergies, circular economy, recycling, and co-learning.  Significant evidence that agroecological approaches that involved the whole system support climate change adaptation was found in a systematic review of 110 studies. Among agroecological elements, biological diversification on farms consistently had strong positive climate change adaptation and mitigation impacts (impacts of diversification on pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling, water regulation, and soil fertility). Padulosi et al. (2015) and Adhikari at al. (2019) suggest that NUS hold great potential to address critical challenges, such as poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and climate change, due to their capacity to grow under marginal low input conditions and high nutritional values. In addition to this, these species tend to be managed with traditional indigenous knowledge, use informal seed sources, have a potential role in mitigating risk in agricultural production systems, and involve a strong gender element (Padulosi et al., 2013).


The European Union has developed several strategies that constitute the policy framework for supporting agroecology in third countries. Such a framework has three main pillars. The first is the Farm to Fork Strategy, the heart of which aims to make it environmentally friendly. The second pillar is the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 which acknowledges the significant role that agroecology can play in underpinning food system transformation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable agricultural practices. The third pillar is the  Comprehensive Strategy with Africa, which calls for the EU and Africa to join efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger and to address the challenges of nutrition and food security by boosting safe and sustainable agri-food systems.


In recent years, IFAD deepened its interest in agroecology and nature-based solutions as witnessed by the participation in the Agroecology Coalition and the ongoing development of technical guidance and how-to-do-note on agrobiodiversity and agroecology. The Fund performed a review of its portfolio aimed at developing a framework to assess how IFAD operations are investing in agroecology and at identifying good practices, gaps, and opportunities to leverage agroecology for strengthening resilience, income generation, nutrition, and food systems sustainability. This stock take was conducted at the farm, landscape, market, and policy levels and revealed that 60% of IFAD projects are supporting agroecology practices.


CAADP-XP4 organizations – namely FARA, AFAAS, ASARECA, CCARDESA, and CORAF – are active in researching and promoting the adoption of climate smart agriculture, as well as specific agroecological approaches contributing to more resilient and sustainable agricultural systems. This will require evidence-based multi-stakeholder partnerships, dialogue and co-learning around agroecology to inform strategies and policy processes at national, regional and continental level.  In its role of facilitating agency, The European Commission (DG INTPA) through DeSIRA-LIFT contributed to the 2022 Biennial Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Stakeholder Conference, organized by FARA and held in Ghana on 14-16 September 2022 organizing two events highlighting the key contribution of agroecology to climate change adaptation and mitigation and with multi-stakeholder perspectives. Farmer organizations, private-sector operators, including micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises and smallholders, financial institutions, and African and European policymakers presented agroecological innovations and solutions in Africa, highlighting the drivers of the agroecological transition supporting economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability.


Transitioning towards climate-resilient, inclusive, nutrition-sensitive, and sustainable farming and food systems requires the engagement of all stakeholders in a particular context. A clear process is needed to enable governments, farmers, other citizens, researchers, the private sector, civil society, development partners, and others to engage and learn together to co-design and support (including with appropriate financial resources) the transitions. To explore the potential for climate-resilient solutions in a particular context, stakeholders need to engage in a safe environment where different world views, experiences, and evidence bases can be shared through a structured learning process involving dialogue and deliberation around agroecology, climate resilience, and sustainable farming and food systems. This can help to inform decisions throughout society and the economy.


This dialogue will engage in learning amongst various actors to explore how agroecological practices may contribute to climate resilience and sustainable farming and food systems in Africa.




This session will bring together diverse stakeholders to:

  1. Share experiences and evidence of how and to what extent agroecology contributes to climate change resilience and sustainability of farming and food systems in Africa.
  2. Discuss how attention to agroecology and agrobiodiversity could inform the transition to a more sustainable and resilient food system in Africa; including how policy processes may need to change.
  3. Explore how to take forward agroecology as a way to support the transition to more climate-resilient and sustainable farming and food systems in Africa, including specific actions and policies.





Wole Fatunbi, Researcher and Senior Technical Cluster Leader/Innovation Systems Specialist, FARA

Isolina Boto and Richard Lamboll, DeSIRA-LIFT






11:00 – 11:15

Introductory Remarks


Christophe Larose, DG INTPA, European Commission (Online)


11:15 -11:40

Keynote Presentations

1. Lini Wollenberg, CGIAR (Online)

2.  Sara Savastano, Director, Research & Impact Assessment Division, IFAD


11:40 – 12:30

High-level Panel Discussion

Theme: Options for leveraging Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity for climate resilience and food systems transition


1. Carlo Fadda (Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT), Kenya

2. Mamadou Goïta, (IRPAD), Mali

3. Million Belay (AFSA), Uganda (Online)

4. Samuel Rigu, SAFI Organics Ltd, Kenya

5. Afantchawo Koudasse, President, Youth College ROPPA, Togo



Audience interactions (Q&A)


12:55 -13:00


Key issues

Way forward


Dr Carlo FADDA, Research Director, Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT – Kenya  

Carlo Fadda joined Bioversity International in 2004 in Vietnam, where he spent almost three years as part of a project to manage agrobiodiversity in situ. Carlo has managed projects in China, Ecuador, Morocco, Kenya, Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, and Tanzania, among others. In 2015, Carlo moved to Ethiopia to establish Bioversity’s office in the country. From 2016, he represented all Bioversity's country offices on the Senior Management Team. For the last six years, he led the ‘Seeds for Needs’ research team, which matches genetic diversity to farmers' needs and brings material from genebanks back into production systems. His work centres on the understanding that conservation and use of genetic resources cannot be decoupled from rural development, livelihoods, and economics. He has a PhD in evolutionary biology and zoology from the Sapienza University of Rome. Carlo is also an adjunct researcher at Scuola S. Anna Pisa in Italy. He is based in Nairobi.

Mamadou GOÏTA, Executive Director, Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD) – Mali

Mamadou Goita is a development socio-economist and an engineer in the management of education and training systems. He worked successively with UNICEF in Mali, UNDP, Oxfam Solidarité Belgique, the World Social Forum and ACORD before becoming joining IRPAD and becoming the Executive Director. He has also been Executive Secretary of ROPPA (West Africa Farmers and Producers Organization). He is a founding member of COPAGEN (the Coalition to Protect African Genetic Heritage) and AFSA (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa).  He is a researcher and teaches at the University of Ouaga II and at the ENEA in Dakar. His field of research includes, among others, agriculture and food, conflict prevention and management, market issues, particularly territorial markets in recent years, issues of extractive industries, migration, etc. He has worked on several studies and research in different fields on all continents of the world and is a member of several Boards of Directors. He is a member of the IPES Food panel, founding member of AFSA and sits on numerous international boards (USC Canada, Afrique Verte International, More & Better network, Global Green Grants) and is a member of multiple African networks (Pan-African Network in the Defence of Migrants’ Rights (PANiDMR), African Development Bank’s CSOs coalition, AIMES, POSCAO).

 Afantchawo KOUDASSE, President, Youth College ROPPA – Togo

Afantchawo Koudasse, a Togolese national, is the President of the consultation framework (college) of young farmers within the Network of Farmers' Organisations and Agricultural Producers of West Africa (ROPPA). He is also the president of the national college of young farmers of the Togolese Coordination of Farmers' Organisations of Agricultural Producers (CTOP), as well as the secretary general of the Network of Young Producers and Agricultural Professionals of Togo (REJEPPAT). Each year, 15 agroecological farms promoted by young farmers who are members of REJEPPAT/CTOP, are identified throughout Togo as part of a ROPPA initiative that provides practical training to youth practicing agroecology in a forest landscape. The training centres and agroecological farms combine classroom and field work settings dedicated to teaching agroecological practices for plant and livestock production and to encouraging farmer-to-farmer learning. Afantchawo is the promoter of the Terre Bénie farming school that supports capacity building in agroecology and forest landscape restoration. He grows vegetables, maize, soya and cassava and processes palm and palm nuts into oil. He also raises snails.

Christophe LAROSE, Head of Sector, Sustainable Agri-Food systems and Fisheries, DG INTPA, European Commission – Belgium

Christophe Larose holds a Master degree in Development Economics from Auvergne University, France. He has been a consultant and works for the European Commission as an administrator since 2003. He has been posted in several EU Delegations: Mauritius (with responsibilities over Seychelles, Comoros and Indian Ocean), Madagascar and South Africa. He came back to the Directorate-General for Development and International Cooperation (EuropeAid) of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, in September 2016. He is heading the sector in charge of sustainable agriculture which includes innovation, research and digitalisation in agriculture.

Samuel RIGU, Co-founder & CEO, SAFI Organics Ltd – Kenya

Samuel Rigu is an Environmental-Conscious Agribusiness Manager, Social Entrepreneur, and Innovator. As a visionary leader, Samuel Rigu is on a mission to transform the agribusiness industry in Kenya and beyond. Samuel's passion for environmental conservation, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit, has led him to develop innovative solutions that address critical issues faced by rural farmers. Growing up in rural Kenya, Samuel witnessed firsthand the struggles of farmers, including his grandmother and neighbors, to access affordable, high-yield fertilizers. He resolved to solve this problem by founding Safi Organics in 2015, a technology-driven company that converts farmers' crop waste into high-quality organic fertilizers. Today, Samuel serves as the CEO of Safi Organics, working full-time to manage the company's operations and expand its customer base. With over 12 years of hands-on experience in management and entrepreneurship, Samuel brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table, including a deep understanding of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition to founding Safi Organics, Samuel previously co-founded a successful company that sold over one million mosquito coils to a large distributor in Kenya. He also worked as the Country Director for Takachar and implemented various organic practices at the Turning Point Trust Farm, turning its finances from loss to profit in just six months.

Sara SAVASTANO, Director, Research & Impact Assessment Division IFAD – Italy

Sara Savastano is the Director of Research and Impact Assessment (RIA) Division of the Strategy and Knowledge Department at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Before joining IFAD, she was Senior Economist with the World Bank’s Development Economic Research Group and was professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy. She also served as economist at the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. She is Board member of the International Association on Applied Bioeconomy Research and the Italian Association of Development Economists. She has published in peer reviewed journals on issues related to land markets and agricultural productivity, as well as the intensification of farming systems, investment and technology for rural and structural transformation. Savastano holds a PhD in economics from the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

Lini WOLLENBERG, Flagship Leader, Low Emissions Development, CGIAR – United States

Lini is a Food and Climate Specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT and Research Professor at the Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont. Previously Lini led the Low-Emissions Development theme for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) (2009-2021) and worked on forest governance and livelihoods at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) (1994–2005), where she was based in Indonesia.  Her current work focuses on scaling up climate change and agroecological practices through digital tools, finance and policy.



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