One of the biggest threats to development in Africa is climate change. The unreliable rainfalls make it difficult for farmers to plan their crops. Drought and soil erosion ruin the land and crops fail. Those already vulnerable are hit the hardest. Sustainable agriculture contributes to the mitigation of climate change and protects against the negative effects of climate change.
Growing trees and several kinds of crops together, so-called agroforestry, increases families’ farm yields and, with it, their access to food and also income. The trees prevent soil erosion and bind carbon dioxide. Using a variety of techniques, farmers can convert to sustainable agriculture.
Vi Agroforestry – much more than trees
Vi Agroforestry is working with local farmers’ organisations on the ground to ensure sustainable development. Agroforestry and sustainable agriculture land management is the core of Vi Agroforestry’s work. By adding components such as organizational development, market oriented production and financial services, as well as gender mainstreaming and HIV & Aids mainstreaming, the results have been strengthened over the years.
Treeplaning and sustainable agriculture adapted to climate change
Small-holder farmers in East Africa are hit hardest by the effects of climate change. One of Vi Agroforestry most important tasks is to provide trainings and advice on how small-holder farmers can adapt to climate change. By employing agroforestry (planting trees together with crops) and other Sustainable Agriculture Land Management methods, the farmers can continue to develop their farming activities, despite droughts and flooding, and these methods ensure the families access to food. . Additional positive points are that agroforestry increases biodiversity, introduces more moisture into the soil, improves fertility and reduces soil erosion. Agroforestry also helps to preserve the natural forests and reduce climate change by binding and storing carbon dioxide in the trees and soil.
Sustainable agriculture adapted to climate change is multifunctional, diversified and based on agro-ecological methods. The agriculture meets people´s basic nutritional requirements and improves the ecosystem services. Agroforestry increases biodiversity, brings more humidity to the soil, reduces soil erosion and increases soil fertility. It also enables diversified food production and helps to improve families’ intake of nutritional food, which is especially important for persons living with HIV. Vi Agroforestry utilizes, and benefits greatly from, traditional and local skills and knowledge and people´s own ability to handle change.
Agroforestry in schools
Vi Agroforestry directs specific initiatives towards schools in order to give school children better access to nutritional food. The pupils learn about agroforestry, and kitchen gardens are planned and managed by pupils and their teachers. In many schools, the children are now guaranteed one meal a day, so that they do not need to study on an empty stomach.
Strong Farmers’ Organisations
To ensure even more long-term, sustainable results, Vi Agroforestry is working in partnership with local organisations in eastern Africa. Vi Agroforestry has long been involved in providing advice to farmers’ groups, but the aim is for the local organisations to take over responsibility for providing such advice to the farmers. In 2012 Vi Agroforestry began supporting local, regional and national farmers’ organisations and has also helped to build up consortia in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. These consortia include
Vi Agroforestry, along with four to six farmers’ organisations per country. This enhances sustainability and local ownership in the countries around Lake Victoria.
In order to increase their income, it is essential for people to view their farming as a commercial enterprise. With support from Vi Agroforestry the farmers can develop their commercial activities and, as a group, strategically plan their farming activities based on analyses of the market. They receive training in basic business economics and jointly analyse their results. By coming together they can negotiate better prices and take advantage of shared gains from joint purchasing of seeds and other necessities.
Developing and least developed countries frequently lack effective banking systems and rural areas are severely lacking in financial services. By setting up saving and borrowing groups farmers can save and invest in their activities. With facilities for borrowing money families are not as vulnerable to emergency expenses such as medicines and hospital visits.
The majority of the world’s poor are women. The lack of gender equality means that they do not have power or influence over their own lives. Vi Agroforestry’s work on gender equality focuses on enabling women in eastern Africa to freely decide on their economic development and participate in the political arena. Switching their farming methods to agroforestry increases crop production, which also improves conditions for women. Methods that save energy, such as efficient wood stoves and biogas systems, improve the situation for women. The saving and borrowing groups strengthen gender equality, as the women have greater influence over how the family’s money is used.