Biofertilizer training!

SFHC hosted a 4 day training for 65 participants on how to make organic ‘biofertilizer.’ Participants included farmers, Ministry of Agriculture extension staff, NGO staff and SFHC members. The training was supported by the Seeds and Knowledge Initiative, a network of agroecology and permaculture organizations in southern Africa.

SFHC holds first General Assembly

In December, SFHC hosted a meeting with the SFHC Trustees and General Assembly. The SFHC Trustees are farmers who have experience using agroecological methods and serve for 3 years. They oversee the work of SFHC staff, while the 100+ General Assembly gives input into the overall direction of the work of SFHC. At the end of the meeting the group had a tour of the SFHC Farmer Research & Training Centre and demonstration farm and were encouraged to use it as a community resource.

SFHC presents at conference in Ethiopia, hosted by the African Food Sovereignty Alliance

Mr. Laifolo Dakishoni, Deputy Director and Finance and Administrative Manager of SFHC, represented our team at the Conference on Agroecology for Climate Resilience in November. The conference, hosted by the African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), brought together “officials, leading experts and practitioners drawn from the African Union, regional economic commissions, NGOs, CSOs, small scale food producers, small businesses, academia, and UN bodies including FAO”. This diverse range of attendees traveled to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, in order to inform policy and reinforce connections between related initiatives dedicated to championing food sovereignty in Africa.

Our Deputy Director Laifolo Dakishoni was invited as a speaker. He presented on our work in relation to climate change and resilience, and the importance of an African food policy being informed by the knowledge of small farmers. Dak, we’re proud to have you representing us, and delighted to be connecting with excellent allies at AFSA!

Graduate students from Germany’s University of Würzburg collaborating with FARMS4Biodiversity

Three graduate students from the University of Würzburg, each focusing on a different aspect of ecology, are our newest collaborators in the FARMS4Biodiversity project’s first working package, Scenarios for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
PhD student Georg Kuestern will examine natural enemies of pests (including birds, parastioids and ground predators) in order to quantify their importance in specific landscapes and intercropping systems for agroecological farming.
PhD student Cassandra Vogel is in her second year of research, focused on the presence of bees on agroecological farms, among other topics.
MSc student Vera Mayer will investigate the relationship between Malawian butterflies and the landscape, especially in the gradient between project areas and adjacent land.

These students are living in Northern Malawi from October to June, collecting data for their research, which will collectively explore the effects of agroecological farming practices on local biodiversity and vice versa. They spent late October getting an orientation to the sites, discussing experimental design with our team members and learning about manure from farmers. This aspect of the FARMS4Biodiversity project is supervised by the University of Würtsburg’s Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter and Cornell’s Katja Poveda. We look forward to working with them and reading their findings!

SFHC featured in Beacons of Hope’s Transforming Food Systems project

The nonprofit Beacons of Hope, in collaboration with The Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, has launched a new project entitled “Transforming Food Systems”. The project seeks out and highlights creative, resourceful food systems initiatives across the globe currently engaging in transformative work to address food insecurity, inequality and climate change. At SFHC, we recognize that the first step to change is envisioning it. As we continue to work toward a future built on a just food system, we learn and draw hope from our resilient colleagues across the planet pioneering alternatives to our current reality. We’re inspired by a diverse range of allies doing great work around the world, and honoured to be part of this initiative!

See Beacons of Hope’s feature on us; check out their interactive toolkit for amplifying the potential of food systems transformation; and read more about their related projects map!

Listen In: Interview with Jahi Chappell & Rachel Bezner Kerr on Food Sovereignty and Agroecology

Stephanie Enloe sits down to interview Dr. Jahi Chappel, Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Agroecology, Water, and Resilience at the University of Coventry, and Professor Rachel Bezner Kerr, a long-standing SFHC research collaborator. The interview includes a discussion of Professor Bezner Kerr’s work with SFHC in Malawi, and Dr. Chappell’s recent book, “Beginning to End Hunger.”

Listen to the podcast here!

(Check out the original blog post by Christian Elliot and explore more content from Cornell University CALS’s department of Development Sociology.)

FARMS at the BiodivERsA Launch in Helsinki

Earlier this month, SFHC Collaborator Rachel Bezner Kerr attended the exciting launch of new BiodivERsA projects in Helsinki–including their support for SFHC’s own FARMS4Biodiversity.

BiodivERsA, one of the funders for FARMS4Biodiversity, launching in Helsinki.

BiodivERsA is a network of funding organizations united to support research on the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The network inludes 35 agencies and ministries from 23 European countries. Since 2005, BiodivERsA has funded about 70 different pan-European research projects.

The FARMS4Biodiversity team has already begun its innovative, ambitious work to collect and analyze data on species diversity and ecosystem services, while moving forward with plans to create a multi-actor platform that will examine scenarios of land-use change generated by the project.

Katherine Torday Gulden at NIBIO has written this informative article about the project’s launch; follow the link to learn more about the project’s aims and structure.

Agroecology for the 21st Century Conference

David Banda of SFHC and Stephanie Enloe of Cornell University recently presented their work on the FARM for Biodiversity project at the Agroecology for the 21st Century Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. You can see their presentation here.

Watch the teaser below, produced by film students at the University of Cape Town, to receive a primer on agroecology prepared especially for this exciting event.

Kicking off FARMS4Biodiversity

We’ve added a new page to our site as we launch an ambitious new project, FARMS4Biodiversity. FARMS brings together a team of researchers, farmers, scientists, policy-makers, and many others from around the world. We are so excited to have the opportunity to share our progress with you.

During the week of January 14th, multiple international and Malawian members of the FARMS team met in Malawi to begin work on the new project. Project members worked out a plan for ecological data sampling, in which the team will assess beneficial insects (i.e. bees, parasitoid wasps, and beetle predators) using bowl traps and pitfall traps. The project coordinator and farmer promoters were trained in using these techniques.

Learning to use bowl traps.
Learning to use pitfall traps.

The team will also sample pest damage through visual inspection of maize and bean plants. Team members decided upon the best protocol for collecting these data.

Finally, one farmer promotor will conduct bird surveys on participating farms with both visual and acoustic detections. Over the course of two weeks in the latter half of January, the team identified approximately 60 fields in 24 villages where they will perform these collections and surveys.

Lots of walking to find farms to include in the study!

We look forward to sharing new developments from FARMS as they unfold!

Presentations at the 7th Annual Sociology of Development Conference

Stephanie Enloe, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Sidney Madsen and Noelle LaDue shared their work with SFHC this October at the 7th Annual Sociology of Development Conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During a section of the conference entitled “Participatory Research for Food Security Among Smallholder Farming Households in Africa and Latin America,” Madsen and LaDue’s presentation covered the co-production of knowledge through semi-structured interviews as part of the Carasso project. Bezner Kerr and Enloe presented their work on agroecological pest management during the same session.

Stephanie Madsen and Noelle LaDue give a presentation on participatory action research.

The conference’s stated purpose was to explore obstacles to global development from diverse perspectives. To paraphrase a slide from Madsen and LaDue’s presentation, there is room in development work to demystify science, acknowledge the co-production of knowledge, and challenge who can generate scientific knowledge. Participatory research helps balance scientific rigor with accessibility, and ensure that development projects engage with the needs of the community as they articulate them–not solely as they are interpreted by outsiders.