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Ecological agriculture in Africa 

Ecological agriculture can provide food security and improve rural livelihoods for African farmers, as well as mitigate and help farmers adapt to climate change. This was the main conclusion of a Conference on Ecological Agriculture: Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security and Self-Reliance for Rural Livelihoods in Africa.  

The Conference was organised by the African Union (AU), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), Ethiopia and the Third World Network (TWN). It was held at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 26-28 November 2008.  

“Support and greater investment in smallholder farmers should be the path to end poverty in Africa”, said H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the opening of the Conference. She highlighted that many diverse and creative ecological agriculture practices based on rich traditional knowledge and agro biodiversity are found in Africa, and that these can improve soil fertility and agricultural productivity.  

About 80 participants from 18 African countries attended the conference to discuss, debate and map the way forward for ecological agriculture in Africa. The African Union Commission (as the highest Policy making organ in the continent) pledged to accord priority to the recommendations of the Conference and provide the framework for policies that will not only act on them, but such that these policies address the needs of the most vulnerable. 

Please find below a press release issued on the first day of the meeting and the closing remarks of the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture. 

With best wishes, 

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Websites: www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net

Item 1

African Union Press Release No 153/2008

Workshop on Ecological Agriculture held in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 26 November 2008 – A workshop on Ecological Agriculture: Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security and Self-Reliance for Rural Livelihoods in Africa opened at the headquarters of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today Wednesday, 26 November 2008 in the presence of the State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia, Dr Aberra Deressa and the AUC Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime.

The Workshop is organised by the African Union (AU), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), Ethiopia and the Third World Network (TWN). The main objectives of the Conference are to discuss the potential of ecological agriculture to address the food security, climate change and rural development challenges in Africa.

“Support and greater investment in smallholder farmers should be the path to end poverty in Africa”, said Commissioner Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the opening of the workshop.

“Many diverse and creative ecological agriculture practices based on rich traditional knowledge and agro biodiversity are found in Africa, which have been effective in tackling poverty,” she continued, highlighting that “the steep rise in petroleum prices and the consequent increase in the cost of chemical fertilizer is making it essential to improve soil fertility and agricultural productivity in Africa through an effective management of the local resources that are found in the agricultural and surrounding ecosystems”.

“Agriculture can be at the centre of the solution to climate change and this is especially true if we link sustainable natural resource management with agriculture. This then can be the basis for development and food security, such as has been demonstrated in ecological agriculture projects in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia”, said Mr. Alexander Mueller, Assistant Director-General of the FAO.

Dr Aberra Deressa, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia elaborated,  “Improvement of natural fertility through organic agriculture is the greatest necessity or alternative option for the future. This can only be achieved by effective management of the ecosystem”.

More than eighty participants from primarily Eastern and Southern African countries are attending the workshop. They include representatives from various governments, non-governmental organizations, farmers’ organizations, and international and regional bodies.

The Conference was preceded by a field trip to the Tigray Region in northern Ethiopia on 23-25 November 2008, to visit some of the communities of smallholder farmers that have been implementing ecological agriculture since 1996.

The conference will continue until 28 November 2008, and will present recommendations derived from discussions during the deliberations, including on how to mainstream ecological agriculture in Africa.

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Item 2

CLOSING REMARKS

BY H.E. RHODA PEACE TUMUSIIME

COMMISSIONER

DEPARTMENT FOR RURAL ECONOMY AND AGRICULTURE

AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION

* Your Excellencies members of the Diplomatic Community,

* Members of Farmer Organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,

* Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be make some concluding remarks at this Conference on Ecological Agriculture: Mitigating Climate Change, Providing Food Security and Self-Reliance for Rural Livelihoods in Africa – focusing on the rural farmers in Africa.

More than 80 participants from 18 African countries as well as international partners have in the past one week gathered here in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union Commission and the Capital of Africa, to discuss, debate and map the way forward to address ecological agriculture in Africa.

Given that agriculture in Africa is dominated by smallholders, (of whom the majority are women); your deliberations here have focussed on the potential of ecological agriculture practices to raise their productivity, rehabilitate the environment, improve incomes and rural livelihoods, as well as mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is crucial to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, several of which could be addressed by ecological agriculture interventions.

Specifically the conference addressed the following issues: 

1)    Implications of high input chemical agriculture on the smallholder farmers of Africa, particularly those in areas threatened by climate change and desertification and the need for alternative approaches to address these challenges, 

2)    Sharing ecological/sustainable/organic agriculture practices, experiences and lessons learnt from selected countries, including the Ethiopian experience in addressing the issues spelled out in this workshop, 

3)    Exploring approaches to develop ecological agricultural policies and strategies for household food security and sustainable rural development in Africa, based on working with nature and local communities.

The challenge is to speed up and share such knowledge, practices and experiences so that policies can be developed to foster and harness the contributions of ecological agriculture and to respond and provide policies that will favour smallholder farmers, while addressing the all encompassing and pressing needs of food security and food safety, environmental degradation, and climate change. This is urgent.

The African Union Commission (as the highest Policy making organ in the continent) therefore, will accord priority to the recommendations of this Conference and provide the framework for policies that will not only act on them, but such that these policies address the needs of the most vulnerable among us. Policies that will not only empower our farmers, but will also give them the dignity that they deserve as providers of food security at household level in Africa.

In so saying and looking forward to working together, I wish to express our deep appreciation to all of you who have participated in this workshop; and in particular thank the following for their generous financial support and contributions:

* SwedBio

* The Third World Network (TWN)

* The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

* The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)

* The Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), who provided all the logistics for the success of this conference and also organized the field visit to their Tigray Project.

* The UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force

* The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia

I wish you all safe journeys back to your countries and hope to see you again soon.

 


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