2 New Research Papers: 2022

We are proud to share new research from our team within the last year! Both works come from our FARMS for Biodiversity Project, and they include a research approach to transdisciplinary agroecology and an assessment of local views on forest reforestation. The abstracts can be found in the  Recent Publications page. You can also reach out to our research collaborator, Rachel Bezner Kerr (rbeznerkerr@cornell.edu), for a PDF copy of these papers!

Chapter One – Transdisciplinary agroecological research on biodiversity and ecosystem services for sustainable and climate resilient farming systems in Malawi

Kpienbaareh, D., Bezner Kerr, R., D. Amoak, T. Chunga, Laifolo Dakishoni, S. Enloe, T. Gondwe, A. Iverson, P. Kanyimbo, G. Küstner, E. Lupafya, I. Luginaah, T. Mehreteab,V. Mayer, I. Mhoni, M. Mkandawire, T. Mkandawire, P. Moyo, P. Munthali, U. S. Nagothu, H. Nyantakyi-Frimpong, K. Poveda, L. Shumba, I. Steffan-Dewenter, Y. Tembo, C. Vogel, J. Wang.

Assessing local perceptions of deforestation, forest restoration, and the role of agroecology for agroecosystem restoration in northern Malawi

Kpienbaareh, D., I. Luginaah, R. Bezner Kerr, J. Wang, K. Poveda, I. Steffan-Dewenter, E. Lupafya and L. Dakishoni.

A week of delicious recipe-sharing

Over one week, the SFHC team traveled to village areas Luzi, Kamwe, Kavula, and Mlimo to conduct recipe demonstrations. Farmers learned new and different recipes using locally grown crops. The training provided aimed to promote household nutrition and food security. In the villages, a common sentiment is that a nutritious diet incorporating all six food groups would require individuals to spend too much money and time. The SFHC team demonstrated the possibility of a more diverse diet using accessible ingredients. With the village members, we prepared soy milk, bean sausages, cakes, pumpkin leaves, donuts made from sweet potato, cassava, and pumpkin and other dishes. After the dishes were prepared, adults and children gathered to present the dishes they had helped make providing instructions for how the food was prepared. Lunch was also served, and the many dishes were enjoyed with relish and good cheer!

Successful Seed Fair held at SFHC Centre

In July, the seed fair at SFHC gathered farmers from many village areas to showcase their different seed varieties and discuss agricultural practices and methods. Farmers presented their assortment of indigenous, local, and hybrid seeds and shared their expertise about their seeds. Many discussed their understanding of cultural and traditional practices associated with certain seeds, along with the history of seeds within their village. Within group discussion, individual farmers elaborated on their observations with scarce seed varieties including mambamba, yam, watermelon, and bean varieties, and emphasized the need for farmers to cooperate and unite in their vision for the future. During the recession, selling seeds has become more difficult, so many agreed that farmers must preserve and share scarce varieties. Many expressed their desire for more farmers to work as a collective forming groups to set better prices and provide better quality products.

Reflections: A Visit from the Seed and Knowledge Initiative

In March 2018, SFHC was pleased to host a visit from the Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI)’s Community of Practice. These experienced and dedicated activists, farmers, and community leaders joined us for several days to exchange knowledge, share food and discuss our experiences.

Mr. John Wilson, the Zimbabwean writer and activist and a member of SKI, wrote about his visit to SFHC in a personal reflection. He contemplates relationships between men and women in farming, the balance between research and civil society, and the delicious taste of — yes — roasted ants. This was written a few years ago, but our website was under maintenance at the time, and it’s worth bringing back!

Read Mr. John Wilson’s reflection here, and let us know what you think 🙂

Barefoot Guide Whole Landscapes - The Barefoot Guide Connection

Mr. Wilson is a co-author of Barefoot Guides’ excellent teaching resource, “Whole Landscapes, Whole Communities: Working with Nature to Heal, Transform and Regenerate Landscapes”.

“This mini Barefoot Guide is an introduction to… landscape-level work with communities in the Southern African region. It is a resource to those communities and those working with them to think about why this landscape-level work is important.

We also hope that people elsewhere will read this and start talking about the opportunities we have to change how we think about the future, and how they might go about landscape-level work where they live.”

Looking for teaching resources? Their guide is well-researched, beautifully illustrated, accessibly written, and highly educational — check it out!

Launch: we have a podcast!

What is agroecology? How is it related to biodiversity and conservation? What is participatory research, and what does it mean to share different types of knowledge? How can you map knowledge sharing across a landscape?

If you’ve ever wondered about any of these questions, we have good news for you! SFHC is launching a podcast this year. We’re calling it “From the Ground Up”.

This first episode delves deep into one of our major current projects, FARMS 4 Biodiversity, to explore how all of these topics come together in our work. From pollination and pest control, to politics and participatory research, this episode introduces it all.

Our first episode features three of SFHC’s research collaborators: Daniel Kpienbaareh (Ghana, Canada), Stephanie Enloe (USA), and Cassandra Vogel (Germany), hosted by student Sammi Landsman (Cornell University). Episode 2 (coming soon…) features SFHC’s Deputy Director Laifolo Dakishoni in conversation with Rodgers Msachi, Head of Community Promoters.

Listen to From the Ground Up on Descript or on Soundcloud!

Solar panels at the Center

Wooohooo! We are finally solar powered! For years, it has been part of our dream to build solar panels onto the roof of our Farmer Research and Training Center, in order to run on renewable energy. In the dry season, the Center can receive up to 12 hours of direct sunlight per day — plenty of energy just waiting to be harnessed!

Solar panel installation on the roof of the Farmer Research and Training Center, December 2021

This year, we were delighted to receive funding from the Biovision Foundation and the Canadian International Development Agency to make this dream a reality.

Electricity in Malawi is unfortunately both expensive and unreliable, with frequent power outages. Solar panels will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint while ensuring a reliable source of power to continue our work during blackouts.

“Within Our Grasp: Childhood Malnutrition Worldwide and the Revolution Taking Place to End It”: Sharman Apt Russell Discusses SFHC in New Book

Sharman Apt Russell, renowned scholar and author, visited SFHC some years ago and captured her exchange with our community and her insights into the world of global nutrition in her new book, “Within Our Grasp: Childhood Malnutrition Worldwide and the Revolution Taking Place to End It”. With this publication comes a chance to gain insights from our stories (as well as broader Malawian nutrition discussions), as well as engage with perspectives from scientists and nutrition experts from around the world. It is an immense pleasure to read her thoughtful and multi-faceted work!

To learn more about the author and gain access to this exciting new publication, visit: https://sharmanaptrussell.com

Credit: Sharman Apt Russel & Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

SFHC honored & recognized by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food

With World Food Day on the horizon (this Saturday, October 16th), we are presented with an opportunity for the global community to come together and reflect on our food systems and their respective effects on our environments; this inherently includes a discussion of the next steps necessary to transform our perspectives of “value” and “cost” with regards to components of our current food systems.

The Global Alliance for the Future of Food embodies a collaborative organizational effort to bring food system concerns (in both social and environmental spheres) to the figurative table with regards to policy discussion. Soils, Food & Healthy Communities has been chosen to be one of their “Beacons of Hope” case studies from around the globe that illustrate methods of increasing the sustainability and resiliency of food systems from within communities. As a part of this Beacons of Hope initiative, a method of quantifying the nuanced profitability and advantages of each diverse system is implemented (known as “True Cost Accounting”).

An infographic embodying SFHC’s ‘True Cost’ Impact, generated by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (Global Alliance for the Future of Food. True Value: Revealing the Positive Impacts of Food Systems Transformation. n.p. Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2021.)

True Cost Accounting considers variables that typical agricultural profitability indices do not, such as environmental degradation and the health of the individuals within the community. This allows a holistic picture of food systems that embodies its effects in their entirety, as opposed to a myopic focus that only accounts for yield.

We are honored to be highlighted in this illuminating report, and hope that this generates the dialogue necessary to shift policy perspectives surrounding agroecological and sustainable farming initiatives from pure financial profit to a more nuanced focus that includes more aspects of these complex and interconnected systems.

For more info and to read the full report, visit https://futureoffood.org/insights/true-value-revealing-the-positive-impacts-of-food-systems-transformation

Democracy Now! features “The Ants and the Grasshopper”

We are SO thrilled to hear that Democracy Now!, one of the most well-known progressive news sources across North America, has released a special feature on Raj Patel’s new film covering SFHC’s work, The Ants and the Grasshopper, which they praise as a “groundbreaking new documentary on the climate crisis and the global food system”. We’re beyond proud of Raj, Zak and the ten years of filming that brought them to this point, and we hope you’ll get a chance to see this powerful film.

To see the film, go to https://www.antsandgrasshopper.org/. You can follow Raj at www.rajpatel.org or on Twitter @_RajPatel. Check out the coverage here!

Raj Patel article on agroecology as a tool to fight hunger

We hope you’ll check out this piece by our long term collaborator and friend of SFHC, Raj Patel, in Scientific American. Raj uses SFHC as a case study to write about agroecology’s potential as a radical vision for a new world: an opportunity to fight hunger and inequality, by shifting power from big agribusiness into the hands of real, small-scale farmers. It’s a detailed, hopeful story!

You can follow Raj at www.rajpatel.org or on Twitter @_RajPatel. You can also find his film (about agroecology, climate change, and some wonderful SFHC members!) at https://www.antsandgrasshopper.org/.