Stakeholders gather for a regional common ground dialogue to promote adoption of sustainable agriculture
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), under the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Uganda, convened a Regional Common Ground Dialogue for Mainstreaming Sustainable Agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa from 17th to 18th October 2023 in Uganda.
This regional event, sponsored by IKEA foundation, builds on the momentum created from the national dialogues, led by IUCN, held in Tanzania and Rwanda. It aims to promote resilient and sustainable farming approach that restores and conserves biodiversity while enhancing food systems management across Eastern and Southern Africa.
Key agriculture and environment actors, representing the private and public sectors, came together to share experiences and best practices that promote sustainable, climate-smart agriculture. Among the attendees were representatives of government, farmer-led organisations, CSOs, academia, and not-for-profit organisations from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Sudan and South Sudan.
The Common Ground Dialogues on Agriculture represent a series of conversations across national, regional, and international levels, focusing on actionable solutions to common agricultural challenges such as depleted soil fertility, biodiversity loss. These discussions aim to foster convergence on priority actions and policy instruments that incentivise Nature based Solutions and land health in key agricultural value chains and landscapes.
The dialogue follows the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 that took place on 4 - 8 September 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which underpinned the need for strategies and actions to support recovery and regenerative practices to achieve sustainable food systems.
Chief guest, Hon. Fred Bwino Kyakulaga, Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Republic of Uganda, underlined the importance of mainstreaming action across countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. “It is now, more than ever before, that our countries must work firmly towards the agreed necessary environmental goals,” he said. He added that although the green revolution increased production, and intensified scaled-up agriculture, it has become the leading driver of global land-use change and biodiversity loss. To counter this, we must embrace Nature-Based Solutions (NbS).
Implementing NbS, he explained, will secure significant benefits for humans, society, and the environment. NbS will also enhance essential services such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, securing safe water resources, purifying air, and ensuring food security.
Based on the premise that healthy ecosystems provide essential benefits to humanity, simultaneously support biodiversity, reduce emissions, secure water resources, and enhance food security.
Ludovic Larbodière, IUCN’s Senior Expert for Agriculture and Environment, explained that to mainstream sustainable agriculture through NbS, agriculture and conservation communities need to build bridges and sustainable strategies while removing barriers.
On his part, IUCN ESARO’s Regional Programme Coordinator Charles Oluchina said, "This dialogue is a crucial step towards aligning agricultural practices with nature with the aim of protecting biodiversity and natural resources as well as ensuring that farming communities will be able to adapt to climate change in the future." “Sustainable agriculture will need first and foremost to consider two inseparables societal priorities - preserving the environment and providing safe and healthy food for all,” he added.
Smallholder farmers, the backbone of global food production, are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Bearing this in mind, ASARECA has resolved to promote climate-smart agricultural innovations for enhanced productivity, resilience, and livelihoods of millions across the 15 ASARECA countries. "This dialogue is a call to action for all stakeholders in agriculture,” remarked ASARECA Executive Director Dr Enock Warinda. “Together, we have an opportunity to transform the way we farm, ensuring the prosperity of both people and the planet".
Participants shared experiences and best practices in sustainable agriculture, identifying priority actions for transforming food systems at both regional and national levels, and fostering collaboration between policy decision-makers, farmer federations, and private sector.
“Today's dialogue marks a pivotal moment in our collective pursuit of sustainable agriculture,” said Dr Yusuf Nkungula, Malawi’s Permanent Secretary for Natural Resources and Climate Change. “By prioritising innovative and resilient farming practices, we are not only safeguarding biodiversity and natural resources but also securing a resilient future for farming communities in the face of climate change."
Mr Joseph Gafaranga, a farmer from Musanze district, Rwanda, voiced the challenges being faced by smallholder farmers. These include unaffordability of organic manure, limited knowledge of how to use manure, few livestock and crop residues, extinction of species that produce biomass, among others. “The high price of organic fertilisers is a huge issue. As a farmer, I would request governments and partners to train farmers on how to produce it in largescale as well as on how to use it,” he explained.
He went further to call on various actors to establish affordable techniques that smallholder farmers can easily adopt to help them have access to organic fertilisers production, use and application.
Download a Joint Communique here