A single finger cannot lift a stone. – Malian proverb
Women in sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for 70 percent of food production, 100 percent of food processing, 50 percent of animal husbandry and 60 percent of agricultural marketing. Nonetheless, women farmers and girls account for most of the sub-continent’s hungry people. This is because, despite their contribution to food security, women have limited access and control over productive resources.
When food riots occurred in some Sahelian countries in 2008, concern about food security made agriculture a priority after years of neglect. Many governments signed the African Union’s Maputo Accord to increase investment for agriculture to 10 percent of national budgets. Despite commitments by governments and donors to support small-scale farmers, policies and practices are biased to high input, export oriented, contract farming in areas with more fertile land and better-resourced farmers. A World Bank report openly states “…the priority is to secure [economic] growth through a focus on the favorable regions and the most entrepreneurial smallholders, and spread the benefits via employment generation and lower food prices.”
Initiatives such as AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) and the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition that focus on high-input seeds, integration with global markets, and the free entry of multinational monopolies into African agriculture only makes the situation worse. Ultimately, these projects undermine women’s market power and limit their access to local markets, appropriate technologies, training, credit, water and land. Successful examples of farmer-led alternatives exist, with significant evidence of their effectiveness, but they are not widespread and do not receive official support.
In response to these threats, at the 2011 World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, 12 grassroots women’s farmers organizations launched the We are the Solution (Nous Sommes la Solution) campaign. The Campaign followed four years of meetings among over 50 African farmer groups and their allies that examined the potential impact of the new Green Revolution on small farmers—and decided it was time to campaign for farmer-led, agroecological solutions to hunger.
Food First’s support to We Are the Solution is longstanding, beginning with the African Agroecological Alternatives to the Green Revolution conference held in Selingué, Mali in November 2007 in which participants affirmed the goal of “food sovereignty, agroecology and other sustainable forms of food production” to ending hunger in Africa and called for, “Farmer-to-farmer learning and research, grassroots information campaigns, and policies that support our agro-biodiversity and the rights of pastoralists, women farmers, and all small farmers.”
The We are the Solution campaign—an unprecedented coalition of African farmers, community-based and international NGOs—has the potential to resist the imposition of a Green Revolution in Africa by strengthening local food systems and building global alliances.
Farmer to Farmer Education
Food First’s role in this work is to provide development policy analysis and technical support for farmer-to-farmer training materials on agroecology and policy engagement. The Farmer to Farmer Movement has been teaching agroecology from farmer to farmer for decades—in Latin America and throughout the Global South. Farmers give village workshops and use stories, poems, songs, demonstrations, and games to communicate abstract ecological and agronomic concepts. We’ve documented these techniques in simple learning materials that can be used with children and adults. The We Are the Solution Campaign of West Africa (Nous Sommes la Solution) has translated these into French as well.
These tried and true educational tools use images and simple language to provide easy-to-understand explanations of agroecological principles and farmer-to-farmer training methodologies. The materials are available for free download in French and English using the links below. We encourage you to use them and share them in the spirit of the farmer to farmer movement!