AFSA, Partners Gather To Make Agroecological Entrepreneurship Work

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The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) has collaborated with partners to organise the first trailblazing three-day continental convening on AFRICAN AGROECOLOGICAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND TERRITORIAL MARKETS in Munyonyo, Uganda, from May 24th to 26th, 2022. The gathering brought together actors from over 30 countries, with over 130 persons in attendance in person and 80 virtual participants.

The gathering was the first of its kind, with the goal of providing a platform for agroecological and like-minded stakeholders to discuss and define the future of agroecological entrepreneurship and territorial markets in Africa in order to enhance investment and policy changes.

Dr. Chris Macoloo, AFSA Chair, welcomes participants from Africa and across the globe to the first African Agroecological Entrepreneurship and Territorial Markets Convening, with the event’s overarching purpose of advancing African agroecological enterprises for healthy local food economies.

Rt. Hon Dr. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs welcomed participants and delivered the Official Opening Remarks of The African Agroecological Entrepreneurship and Territorial Markets Convening, saying she will be eager to hear about the convening’s final deliberations.

Dr. Million Belay, General Coordinator of AFSA, delivered a keynote remark about the contextual background, objectives, and anticipated outcomes of the #AAEC2022, saying, “Agroecology ensures that food producers and communities, particularly rural communities and women farmers, have the ability and resources to continue feeding and nourishing their families in difficult times.” It is time for African governments, as well as the donor and investor communities, to focus more on developing territorial markets and supporting agroecological enterprises in order to ensure that people build resilient futures despite the many crises they are facing.”

At a time when the world faces major risks to food security, the global community is starting to reach an agreement on the need to make our food systems more sustainable. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the flaws and inability of global industrial food systems to meet local consumers needs.

Simultaneously, the pandemic has revealed the enormous opportunity to amplify the importance and resilience of shorter supply chains and agroecological enterprises and markets to withstand global crises, as well as demonstrate how smallholder farmers producing agroecological food can meet the population’s food and nutrition needs.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa’s research has identified a vibrant emergence of agroecological entrepreneurs across Africa engaging in the marketing and distribution of agroecological products and inputs. This conference testifies to their numbers, dynamism, and importance. These products include: fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals and pulses as well as value-added food products in addition to biofertilizers and biopesticides.

The three-day gathering includes a variety of activities such as field visits to agroecological enterprises and territorial markets, agroecological entrepreneurship exhibition from various countries on best practices and ongoing activities, as well as panel discussions and group discussions that delve deep into territorial markets, AEE support systems, enabling policies, and consumer and citizen participation.

Representing agroecological entrepreneurs Ms. Sylvia Banda of Sylva Foods in Zambia said, I work with smallholder farmers to promote neglected and underused crops. I own two factories in which we process their produce, package it to suitable standards, and sell it in huge stores. So far, we have trained over 25,000 smallholder farmers, 90 percent of them are women. There is an increasing chance for smallholder farmers to engage in agroecology, but we need help sensitising the public and obtaining financial assistance to go further.

Daniel Moss, Agroecology Fund Co-Director, said “Donors from across the world are supporting the African Agroecological Entrepreneurship and Territorial Markets Convening. Why? For too long, donors have invested in industrial agriculture with poor results for livelihoods, health, ecosystems and human rights. A radical shift is underway. Donors are joining agroecology movements and entrepreneurs in subscribing to agroecological principles and investing in truly equitable and sustainable food systems.”

Sir. Bob George, Senior Agricultural Officer for Food, Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries,Uganda said “We have many policies that promote the agroecology movement. Our agricultural sector strategic plan addresses issues of sustainable agriculture of which agroecology is a component. As a ministry of agriculture, we are now in the process of developing a national agroecology strategy that will provide a clear pathway on the direction upon which agroecology can strive in”

Seizing the opportunity of the convening, AFSA also officially launched two books, AFRICAN TERRITORIAL MARKETS: Opportunities & Challenges for Transition to Agroecology DIGITAL MARKETING AND AGROECOLOGY:The What Role Digital Marketing Play in The Transition to Agroecology & Sustainable Food System?
After a full day of group work and plenary deliberations participants agreed to:

Increasing the recognition of African agroecological entrepreneurs and territorial markets by informing and supporting agroecology movements, donors/investors, service providers, and governments.

Building momentum for formulating policy recommendations and initiating new programs.

Creating and sustaining a community of support for an enabling business environment for African agroecological entrepreneurs and increase demand, i.e., through fostering territorial markets.

The closing statement of Hon. Bwino Fred Kyakulaga, Minister of State for Agriculture, on the last day of #AAEC2022 reminds the audience that Agroecology has always been the past and that we should strive to make it the practise of the future. “I accepted the request to come and formally end the assembling on the condition that I would be referred to as a Champion of Agroecology and promised government backing to work on the restoration of agroecology in Uganda,” he stated in his concluding remarks.

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