“If you look at a map of global agrobiodiversity hotspots you soon realise that they are identical with indigenous people’s habitats. There are 370 million indigenous people in the world and they have been custodians of agrobiodiversity for millennia,” says Phrang Roy, co-ordinator of the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty. “Regretfully, their practices, such as shifting cultivation and their selection of socially relevant local crops and breeds, are not understood by many development workers, researchers or governments.”
Anthony Mugo interviewed John Njoroge, Director, Kenya Institute of Organic Farming (KIOF), on the benefits family farmers derive from adopting organic farming.
Interview > Deo Sumaj - About 23 years ago, in Santiago del Estero, a province in the north of Argentina, the Peasant Movement of Santiago del Estero Via Campesina (MOCASE -VC) was established. One of its leaders is Deo Sumaj, an impressive peasant woman of the Vilela indigenous people. “Peasant family farming could provide many answers to the crises that humanity faces.”
Interview > Meenakshi Singh - Having grown up and studied in the enormous city of Mumbai, India, Meenakshi Singh and Umesh Chandrasekhar were looking for an alternative way of life. After spending eight years farming organically in the district of Dharmapuri, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, they decided to work with local farmers to help them convert to organic agriculture – through their children. They started the Puvidham Learning Centre, a school for children of nearby farmers and migrant labourers that aims to make the experiences at school relevant to children’s lives and to give value to the children’s own knowledge. Starting with seven children in 2000, 95 are now enrolled in their school.
(June 2013) Anthony Mugo talks to Miriam Cherogony, the Rural Finance Specialist at the IFAD-Supported Rural Finance Knowledge Management Partnership (KMP)."Smallholder farmers are rational and will only produce if the market for their produce is assured."
(June 2013) The founder and Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Organic Producers & Promoters Association (ZOPPA), Fortunate Hofisi Nyakanda, is one of the members of the Agricultural Biodiversity Community, which is part of the Hivos-Oxfam Novib Agrobiodiversity@knowledged programme. ILEIA spoke to her about the role of ZOPPA in connecting smallholders to local markets and in maintaining agricultural biodiversity. “It is now very clear that the market is there, but there is need for connecting the producers and the market in the most conducive way.”
Interview (June 2013) > Medius Bihunirwa is the head of the Farmer Enterprise Development Unit at Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC), Uganda, where she works with smallholder farmers, enhancing the quality of their produce and improving their access to markets. In her role as member and researcher of the Hivos/IIED Knowledge Network, she has delved deeper into the concept of farmer agency and their interest in being part of a value chain.
Interview > Miguel Altieri (May 2013)- During a visit to an organic farm near Wageningen (the Netherlands), Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agro-ecology at the University of California, acknowledged that there are a lot of good intentions among farmers, but that they are restrained by the market which strongly demands "one type of potato".
Interview > Suprabha Seshan - In this interview Suprabha Seshan, an ecosystem gardener shares insights about ecological restoration in the Western Ghat Mountains in Kerala. "Natural forests are key to improving livelihoods in India".
Interview > Bancy Mati - System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is an efficient technology for rice-farming that was recently introduced in Kenya. It results in higher yields, requires less water and increases net incomes from rice production. The World Bank Institute describes SRI as: “a set of farming practices developed to increase productivity of land and water as well as resources.”A professor of land and water management, Bancy Mati, from Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), spearheaded the introduction of this technology in Kenya.
Interview > Norman Uphoff - Norman Uphoff, Professor Emeritus of Government and International Agriculture at Cornell University, served as director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development (CIIFAD) from 1990 to 2005. During this time he became acquainted with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Madagascar, and realised that “something unusual was going on” as farmers were obtaining average paddy yields of eight tons per hectare instead of their usual two tons. Recognising the huge potential benefits, he has been working ever since to promote the testing, evaluation and understanding of SRI. “People can overestimate my role as easily as they can underestimate it… the truth is that the actual work has been done by thousands of people around the world.”
Tati Krisnawaty interviewed Pak Enceng, a farmer who is a pioneer in using SRI methods in Indonesia and teaching others about his knowledge. He talks about the obstacles encountered as well as the benefits surrounding the use of SRI methods.
Interview > Valdely Kinupp - Valdely Kinupp, professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Amazonas, talks about his work and life experience with Wild Edible Plants (WEP). He discusses the main obstacles, challenges and opportunities to enlarge the knowledge, use and consumption of WEP and how this can improve the biodiversity conservation.
Baobab’s Anthony Mugo interviewed Dr. Geoffrey Kironchi, an expert on desertification.
Interview > Chris Reij - Working as a sustainable land management specialist at the Centre for International Cooperation of the Free University in Amsterdam, and as a Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute, in Washington, Chris Reij is the facilitator of “African Re-greening Initiatives”. This is a platform that supports farmers in the process of adapting to climate change and in developing more productive and sustainable farming systems. This platform was launched to help scale up the results of the efforts of those farmers and communities in Burkina Faso and Mali who have shown enormous success in the fight against desertification.
Interview > Elisabeth Atangana - As a farmer, the newly appointed FAO Special Ambassador for Co-operatives, Elisabeth Atangana, is familiar with farmer organisations at many different levels.
June 20, 2012: Interview > Georgina Koomson - CEO of Ideal Providence Farms in Ghana, member of IFOAM. She is a farmer herself, producing and exporting organic shea butter. She is in Rio at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development with the IFOAM delegation.
Interview > Ann Waters‑Bayer - Rio+20 has sparked international attention to sustainable agricultural development, but this has been a point of attention for many people for years. Agricultural sociologist, Ann Waters‑Bayer was for a long time involved in the production of the ILEIA Newsletter and the LEISA Magazine. She is now part of Prolinnova, a “Global Partnership Programme” under the umbrella of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) that aims to promote local innovation processes in ecologically oriented agriculture.
Interview > Manuel Gonzalez de Molina - Manuel Gonzalez de Molina Navarro works as Professor in the Department of Contemporary History at the University Pablo de Olavide (Seville), where he directs the Laboratory of Agro-ecosystems History. He proposes the use of “social metabolism” as a tool and perspective to describe and analyse the relationship between nature and the production processes – and to develop more sustainable food systems.
Interview > Cornelia Butler Flora - Cornelia Butler Flora, a professor at the Iowa State University explains why we should work on small-scale rather than big-scale policies and why she is sceptical about the possibility to mainstream agroecological approaches.