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Family Farming in Africa – Handbook Launch

On Friday 14th March a book launch event was hosted at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) London of the “Family Farming in Africa – Overview of Good Agricultural Practices in Sub-Saharan Africa” authored by Sara Costa, G. Matteo Crovetto, and Stefano Bocchi of the University of Milan.  The event was organised by the Food We Want Campaign, in association with PENHA and the IIED, and included panellists from University of Milan, PENHA London and Somaliland and Oxford University.

The event was opened by Dr. Angela Raven-Roberts from the International Gender Studies Centre, Oxford University where she introduced the event programme and also mentioned that FAO's theme this year coincides with the meetings discussion on the Family Farming.

Menbere Hailemariam, PENHA Communication Officer started her presentation by inviting the participants to watch a short video produced for the FWW project. Following this video, she described the five project activity packages which are used to attain the intended level of awareness and food behavioural changes in consumption. These are Scientific Research and Dissemination; Communication Campaign, including the Web portal and the School Education Campaign; Media workshops and Media Contest; Sustainable Agriculture Support Points and Public Events. In the UK, PENHA has recently conducted two media workshops at the University College of London (UCL) and Oxford Brookes University which created a forum for the young people to have positive perception in portraying Sub-Saharan Africa food security images. Additionally, a one day event was organised at Ramsgate in engaging young children in agricultural practices.

Sara Costa made a presentation at the event, providing a comprehensive overview of the research that was conducted in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique, using questionnaires and interviews with smallholder farmers engaged in agriculture. The research identified numerous good sustainable agricultural practices, most of which are based on indigenous knowledge, including vegetable nurseries, organic pesticides and fertilisers, mulching, intercropping, soil and water conservation techniques, irrigation, and animal husbandry amongst others.

The major bottlenecks in the advancement of the good agricultural practices mentioned by Sara were poor and unpredictable rainfall, crop failure and livestock loss, water access in the dry season and livestock feeding, livestock-wildlife conflicts (Amboseli National Park), wildlife encroachment (fields raids and livestock death), poor agricultural knowledge, lack of assistance, lack of money to buy improved seeds and inputs and marketing of products (lack of means of transport, poor bargaining power and timing of sales, produce conservation).

The research found that low cost and simple initiatives, which capitalise on making use of the local materials, were both the most effective and easily adopted by small holders. The research also emphasises the role that NGOs play in disseminating knowledge and good agricultural practices to small hold farmers. To get e-version of the handbook can be obtained from here.

The event also saw a presentation from PENHA’s Somaliland team, Amsale Shibeshi (Regional Programme Coordinator) and John Livingstone (Senior Regional Policy Officer) complementing the handbook launch through bringing field-based experiences and sharing their view on the role of agro-pastoral communities in sustainable agriculture. Somaliland is known for its pastoral economy as the total number of livestock population is almost five fold that of its inhabitants (estimated 3.8 million). The livestock population is estimated to be 19 million. The team presented some of the work and experiences conducted in Somaliland and the region. It was also highlighted the livestock trade and other business networks which are closely integrated across borders and across Somali-speaking Djibouti, South and Central Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

During the presentation made by Amsale and John ample examples where given, all showing PENHA’s support for sustainable agricultural practices of the smallholder pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in Somaliland. Such practices include income diversification (like providing modern bee hives), rehabilitation of farming and grazing lands, and also enhancing their capacity in their production systems. 

At the end of the event, the session was opened for discussion and questions and answers where the participants raised various critical questions and entered into debate with the panellists.

The handbook can also be downloaded through the link: