Locally rooted: Ideas and initiatives from the field

23 March 2016

Two (or more) heads are better than one, goes the old saying, and the same is true in agroecology. As we see here, when people from diverse backgrounds come together, their different perspectives and experiences are fertile ground for creativity and innovation to blossom.


Crops and livestock: You can have them both

MaliFarmers in Koutiala, a district in Southern Mali grow cereals to feed their families and keep cows for milk and as a form of savings. There, all the arable land is currently under cultivation. During the four months of the rainy season, farmers prioritise the cultivation of cereals over fodder production for livestock. A shortage of feed for the animals during the dry season leads to low milk production and high mortality of cattle. Farmers, in partnership with a local NGO and researchers from local and international research centres jointly determined the most promising pattern of intercropping maize with cowpea, a crop with high fodder value. Together farmers and researchers experimented in small plots. With intercropping at the right moment in the rotation, farmers can feed their livestock without compromising food self-sufficiency of their household. By collecting extra manure in the stall, farmers could fertilise the cereals and the extra income from the milk could be re-invested in farm assets or goods for the family: “This is a key lesson that we will bring back to our families”.

Contact: Gatien Falconnier (gatien.falconnier@wur.nl)


Farmers give potatoes a new life

BelgiumThe Flemish farmer network – Biobedrijfsnetwerken (BBN) supports the development initiatives that bring farmers, advisors, and researchers together to tackle agricultural production challenges. For example, farmers from Greenflow, a cooperative of organic farmers in Flanders, Belgium came together to find a way to meet the high standards of retailers. These farmers, with inspiration from advisors and researchers increased the shelf life of their potatoes. The potatoes are brushed instead of washed and therefore retain their flavour and take longer to perish. Moreover, the farmers designed and produced a paper bag that has a personalised label to inform consumers who produced their food and where it came from. Farmers have a lot of knowledge they can share, whilst other stakeholders, such as advisors and researchers, can provide complementary expertise to help the farmers innovate their management practices.

Contact: Sabrina Proserpio (sabrina.proserpio@bioforumvl.be)


Solving the challenges of social entrepreneur farmers France

In 2015, Neo-Agri association and MakeSense started the AgriSenseTour in France to help farmers overcome their entrepreneurial challenges by working together with… gangsters! Ok, not real gangsters, but members of the MakeSense community who call themselves that way and who facilitate one-hour creativity workshops to help social entrepreneurs overcome obstacles. These workshops are called “Hold-Ups” (as it fits nicely with the concept of being a gangster) and now, with this initiative, also target new peasants. There is no need to be an expert to take part in a Hold-Up, anyone can participate. Hold-Ups foster co-creation by and between farmers and citizens. They use creative techniques to help participants share ideas and sometimes even resources. From growing shiitake mushrooms on brewery waste to creating a system of organic waste collection and composting to sharing transport costs to access consumers, Hold-Ups have helped farmers design innovative agroecological techniques. Moreover, anyone can learn to prepare and facilitate a HoldUp thanks to an online open source library of tools which can be accessed upon (free) registration as a MakeSense community member.

Contact: Sidney Ortun Flament and Bruno Macias (contact@neo-agri.org), www.makesense.org


Responding to climate change locally

IndonesiaAn anthropologist, an agrometeorologist and Universitas Indonesia students and other scientific and administrative support staff have teamed up with rice farmers in Indramayu (Java) and on Lombok, to face changing local climatic patterns. The aim is to generate reliable climate services on which farmers can base their crop management decisions. This is done through co-production of knowledge that is rooted in scientific and local expertise and takes place in mutually supportive undertakings. They consist of conducting field experiments, rainfall measurements and agroecological observations (soil, plants, water, biomass, pests) on a daily basis. With these data that farmers collect, farming strategies are jointly developed and discussed monthly in Science Field Shops. Including monthly climate predictions, farmers and scientists learn about agrometeorological consequences of climate change locally. Training of Trainers allows upscaling of the Science Field Shops.

Contact: Kees Stigter (cjstigter@usa.net) and Yunita T. Winarto (yunita.winarto@gmail.com)