Image credit: Courtesy of Agroecology fund

We are the Solution: A Women-Led Regenerative Agriculture Campaign

Women manage 70% of smallholder agriculture in Africa, conserving native seeds, caring for livestock, processing food, and selling locally. Women must be part of the solution to the food and hunger crisis.

The project entitled "Restoration of Traditional Rice Biodiversity in West Africa," through support to a West African women's agroecology movement, aims to contribute to communities' food and nutritional security for whom rice is both an essential food staple and a cultural identity.

Burkina Faso and Senegal are the principal beneficiary countries of this project. Despite their agroecological potential, they import more than half of the rice they need. Food sovereignty and self-sufficiency begin with food producers' adequate control of seeds –the basis of agriculture.

The rice now imported and consumed by communities in West Africa is often of poor quality, contributing to diabetes. The introduction of new hybrid rice varieties in West Africa has led to some traditional varieties' abandonment and even disappearance. This has led to a loss of biodiversity of the microorganisms and natural species that provide the soil with humus in traditional rice production areas. The new varieties, highly dependent on agrochemical inputs, contribute to the acidification of the land and fare poorly in the changing climate.

This project is a joint endeavor by the rural women’s movement, Nous Sommes la Solution (We are the Solution –NSS), and the pan-African Fahamu movement. The project aims to add value to Indigenous and traditional rice varieties and agricultural practices that preserve biodiversity and soil fertility and play an important social, cultural, and economic role. It also builds on previous collaboration between the rural women's movement and research institutes to map, test, and breed rice varieties in Burkina Faso and Senegal, leading to a noticeable improvement in traditional rice production using environment-friendly techniques.

There is now a need for additional funding to reinforce and expand production, value-addition (parboiling), and marketing. This next step will encourage more women to adopt traditional rice varieties and farming techniques and, more importantly, find local markets for their produce, thus creating sustainable livelihoods and accelerating the uptake of agroecology.

Promoting local food economies such as these based on agroecology principles could play a key role in influencing policy on the national levels. Women in traditional rice production areas will be both the direct beneficiaries of the project and the ones responsible for its implementation. Rural women are generally responsible for the entire rice production chain; they will be at the forefront of implementing field activities, knowledge sharing, and advocacy.

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