Agro ecology a sure way to build resilient and sustainable agri-food systems in West Africa

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Vegetable garden in the Gambia courtesy FAO Gambia, 2018
Vegetable garden in the Gambia courtesy FAO Gambia, 2018

Global challenges such as ecosystems degradation, high population growth rate, climate change, and the global vision to produce 60% of more nutritious food toward a horizon of 2050, while protecting the environment, calls for a transition to more sustainable food systems that can produce more and better nutritious food while preserving the natural resources.  Agro-ecology is the solution to these challenges.

Agroecology’s holistic approach — incorporating traditional knowledge and skills of farming communities, with cutting edge ecological, agronomic, economic, and sociological research, has the potential to support strong and sustainable agri-food systems that can provide health and livelihood to both rural and urban communities, and ensure environmental benefits.

Agroecology can address the need for increased productivity through the deliberate use of beneficial ecological processes, while increasing resilience to external threats such as climate change and price volatility. Agroecology practices sustain high agriculture and food production, while ensuring the best use of the nature’s precious resources, what we may call “Nature Positive Production” or “Nature Smart production.

The efficiency of agroecology to meet the challenges in West Africa and the Sahel.

The majority of the population depending on agriculture and pastoralism are affected by high climate variability and the effects of climate change, water and land/soil degradation and/or inaccessibility, decline of natural resources, displacement, loss of productive assets and livelihood disruption, caused by conflict and violence (e. g. conflicts in Liptako-Gourma region and Lake Chad Basin have forced millions of people to leave their homes during the last few years).

Adopting agro ecology as a mode of production in agro-sylvo-pastoral settings of West African region is crucial.  Agro-ecology efficiency is derived from an integrated approach that includes a whole range of techniques aimed at enhancing food production while ensuring the protection and conservation of ecosystems. It applies simultaneous techniques of improving soil and water conservation, soil health and soil fertility, pests and other crop pests control, agriculture conservation and climate smart agriculture. It favors the perfect combination of agriculture and livestock and aquaculture, including innovative practices of soil-less agriculture, vertical agriculture, aquaponics and hydroponics, and beekeeping.

The FAO and ECOWAS are developing a – ten (10) – year Agro ecology programme with a road map that will guide member States to adopt policy and strategic orientations for an agro ecological transition to promote inclusive, competitive, sustainable, and nutrition sensitive food system that can ensure better food and nutrition production, environment and life, leaving. 

This article is authored by Eugene Rurangwa, FAO Land and Water Officer

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