Zimbabwe – Kenya country exchange: A learning opportunity to foster agroecological transitions

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The CGIAR Initiative on Agroecology works in eight countries of the Global South. From the beginning, country teams aimed at learning from each other while co-developing with their national partners the vision and actions required to achieve agroecological transitions.

The International Network of Agroecology Living Landscapes (INALL) is the mechanism that the Initiative designed to provide an opportunity for its members to share knowledge. One of the recent examples of how it works and what it provides is the Kenya – Zimbabwe exchange visit that took place from the 9th to the 11th of April 2024 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Specifically, the visit included staff members and students involved in work package 1, which focuses on the mobilization and facilitation of multi-actor agroecological living landscapes (ALLs), as well as the co-design of innovative on-farm practices. The teams’ objectives were to foster learning opportunities on good scientific practices in data management, agroecological practices in the field, business models and financial mechanisms that are conducive to agroecological transitions, and various livelihood effects experienced by food system actors to date.

The Kenya team travelled to Zimbabwe to learn from their team’s vast experience in “digital agronomy” data management, which includes aspects such as data collection that facilitate easy data flow, the integration of different data sources through modelling, and innovative data visualization to foster differentiated insights into the performance of the practices put under trial. The visit entailed both theoretical and practical sessions on data analysis in R. These sessions were embedded in broader introductions, reflections, and discussions of the engagement and co-design approaches taken in both countries, and in the kinds of on-farm experiments conducted as one of their results.

Beyond this primary focus, the Zimbabwe team also discussed with the Kenya team the role of mechanization in agroecological transitions, especially by adopting the service provider model that generates income for those who render the services. The Zimbabwe team also organized a field visit, which allowed the Kenya team to learn more about innovative livestock feed formulation, firebreaks, grass cutting for mulch, and biochar. When asked for the practices that were relevant in the Kenyan context that the team could potentially adopt and adapt from the Zimbabwean context, the visiting team detailed seven practices and actions, among those the planting of different crops at different time intervals, the use of local trees to produce ash for pest control, and the adoption of push-pull technology for ecological pest and disease management.

“We have showcased the iterative process taken by the Kenya team, which led to the innovations, put under trial, to be fully and methodically co-designed. At the same time, we are impressed by how the Zimbabwe team is proactive in fostering and partnering with other actors interested in agroecology.” Lisa Fuchs (Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT), WP1 lead, Kenya.

A visit to the Hamamaoko Poultry Group was an opportunity to learn from a case study where Zimbabwe gains experience to build a more sustainable business model for farmers. A visit to a partner-facilitated ALL meeting, which brought together farmers and government and non-government stakeholders, gave the teams insights into how local knowledge can be invoked to support agroecological post-harvest handling. The field visit ended at the Murewa District Office where the Initiative partner highlighted how communities have changed their mindset regarding farming thanks to the activities being carried out by the Agroecology Initiative showing the impact the team is making.

“I am motivated by seeing how farmers evidenced their in-depth local knowledge about their environment and the agro-ecological practices farmer group feedback sessions during the ALL meeting”, Vimbayi Chimonyo (CIMMYT), country focal point, Zimbabwe.

In their summary session, the teams shared impressions, reflected on actionable lessons learned, and discussed future plans. One core discussion focused on the benefits of participatory guarantee system (PGS) for agroecology as a powerful vehicle to address natural farming, economic circularity, and social justice – which Lisa Fuchs described as the three core aspects of agroecology.

The two countries continue to exchange online as they plan for a broader INALL activity later in the year, which aims to foster direct exchanges between ALL members from both countries by visiting each other and learning from each other on the ground.

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