Agroecology and agroforestry present a win-win-win strategy for sustainable agricultural production which benefits farmers and consumers while also mitigating and adapting to climate change.
- Agroecology is a farming and food production system which works with the natural ecology involved in food production, rather than trying to control local ecology.
- Agroecology is organic, meaning no agro-chemicals are used during production and organic fertilisers and pest repellents are used instead.
- Food produced agroecologically is more nutritious than food grown using input-intensive industrialised agriculture.
- Agroecology is context-specific, using practices which are suitable for the local environment.
- Agroecology is cheaper for farmers because they are producing their own organic fertiliser rather than buying costly agro-chemicals.
- Agroecology is healthier for consumers because the food produced is more nutritious and is part of the local cultural diet.
- Agroecology can mitigate climate change by increasing carbon storage of soils and increasing tree cover and plant biomass which takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Agroecology draws on local and traditional knowledge to ensure production is environmentally sustainable and culturally sensitive. Traditional and local knowledge about soil, water, seed, and crop management is technical knowledge and should be enhanced rather than discarded.
It is time to recognise the knowledge our farmers have and give this value in our food system. We need to let farmers have rights over their farms, crops, knowledge, and practices. This includes giving small-holder farmers a say over their food system regardless of their location, economic status, religion, or political persuasion.
The farming practices which are being promoted as ‘modern’ and ‘improved’ include the use of heavy machinery such as tractors. In the relatively poor soils, particularly in northern Ghana, the use of machinery for farming causes deforestation, soil erosion and water contamination, and a loss of biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity reduces productivity of land, particularly in marginal areas such as drylands. Agroecological farming practices prevent destruction of our environment and can restore biodiversity and reverse land degradation.
Farming in Ghana used to be agroecological. Before agricultural practices were introduced to Ghana from overseas, particularly the Western world, farming in Ghana was organic, worked with the local environmental context, was culturally sensitive and drew on traditional knowledge, provided local food for local people, and was socially just by ensuring the rights of producers to determine their production practices. History tells us that agroecological farming in Ghana can support our social, cultural and economic needs sustainably. We need to learn from our past and look to our traditional knowledge to create a Ghanaian food system for all Ghanaians.