Agroecology experts agree on the importance of women and youth in transforming food systems. A new conference format recently offered a stage on which to present NICE. Together with partners, we’re using this project to improve nutrition in cities.
The first Eastern Africa Agroecology Conference took place recently in Nairobi, Kenya. More than 500 participants enjoyed talks from about a dozen experts. A major topic was how to sustainably transform the region’s food systems in line with agroecological principles and practices. Delegates discussed support and implementation of agroecology-oriented policies by government institutions and other key stakeholders. Speakers also pointed to the crucial role of digital platforms and the importance of investing in women and youth.
“What I have learned is that there is a great need to shift how the agriculture sector does research, supports farmers, and taps into women and youth as co-creators in agroecology”, says Elizabeth Imbo, our Kenyan project manager in the NICE project. She and Sophie Van Den Berg from our partners at ETH Zürich* spoke at one of the plenary sessions. Their presentation “Farm resilience assessment using FAO’S adapted SHARP tool in Busia County” was based on a farmer survey conducted as part of the project. Busia is one of two Kenyan cities in which the NICE project is running. Four cities in Rwanda and Bangladesh are also involved.
The survey found that farming households have some capacity to shift and adapt when a shock occurs. However, resilience is often still limited by a lack of information, expertise, or resources. The study also showed that Kenyan farmers take a range of agroecological approaches. These include improving biodiversity, reducing inputs, and improving soil health.
The Kenyan NICE project team participated in a conference field trip. In Machakos County, they visited the organic farm of Charles Mawia. “He profitably grows indigenous vegetables and fruit on just a quarter of an acre”, explains Elizabeth. Charles achieves that by using innovative technologies such as containers, zai pits, and multistorey or conical gardens.
“Overall, the conference has set a new pace for conversations on policy and legislative changes around agroecology in our region”, Elizabeth comments. The Nairobi event was the first of its kind in Eastern Africa. Organizers included Biovision Africa Trust, the African Union, Pelum Association, KOAN, the Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agroecology and Agrobiodiversity, and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture’s Livestock Department.