Prolinnova at SKI agroecology workshop in Zambia

Prolinnova was invited to join a workshop held by SKI (Seed & Knowledge Initiative) in Lusaka, Zambia, in August 2019 on “Advancing the practice of agroecology in Southern Africa”. The workshop aimed to increase understanding of agroecology and decide where SKI should focus to increase its impact in the region. SKI is a regional initiative that works with partner organisations to support and enhance community-based seed systems and agroecology as strategies to achieve food sovereignty and mitigate the climate crisis.

Makonge Righa from Prolinnova–Kenya attended the workshop on behalf of our international network. He gave a presentation about Prolinnova’s goals and about local innovation and farmer-led experimentation. Many workshop participants appreciated the role of farmer innovation. In their interaction with farming communities, they had seen farmers coming up with innovations and experimenting with various ideas. Indeed, during the workshop field trip to nearby farms, participants identified various local innovations. However, few participants had thought of supporting the farmers to improve/expand their innovations. This clearly illustrates that Prolinnova has its work cut out in promoting local innovation and farmer-led experimentation as a development approach that can improve food security, environmental conservation and incomes.

Righa found that the local innovation concept fits well with agroecology. When communities of small-scale farmers engage in local innovation and experimentation, they are mainly addressing or contributing to agroecology elements such as increasing diversity, ensuring resource-use efficiency, minimising waste (e.g. recycling nutrients) and ensuring culturally appropriate solutions. SKI wants to build a community of practice (CoP) of agroecology and identify ways of spreading agroecology. It is grappling with some of the same issues as Prolinnova does as a network, e.g. finding efficient ways of promoting local innovation and farmer-led experimentation at local, national, regional and international level; involving diverse stakeholders; mainstreaming the approach. Hence, both Prolinnova and SKI have much in common that we can share and learn from each other, working together to achieve our mutual objectives.