PrAEctiCe project is funded by the HORIZON Europe programme under Grant Agreement number 101084248

Exploring Agroecology Living Labs in Africa

On March 21st, PrAEctiCe hosted its first thematic webinar, “Agroecology Living Labs in Africa,” in collaboration with its sister projects. Jan Hoinkis from Hochschule Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HKA), also the coordinator of the PrAEctiCe project, moderated the webinar. The speakers included Mehreteab Tesfai from the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) for CANALLS, Gerrie van de Ven from Wageningen University for NATAE, and Miguel Ribeiro from Mertola Heritage Defense Association (ADMP) for CIRAWA.

The projects under the Horizon Europe Farm to Fork program offered a range of perspectives on the development of living labs in various areas, such as climate conditions, ecosystems, crops, and stakeholders involved. They also provided their own definitions of living labs and discussed the potential benefits and challenges of agroecology living labs in Africa.

Jan Hoinkis introduced one of the three living labs for the PrAEctiCe project, focusing on the one in Kisumu, Kenya. This particular lab focuses on integrated aqua-agriculture. They use a membrane bioreactor to treat wastewater, which is then used for fish farming. The water from the fish tank is also used for nutrient irrigation for crops. Additionally, the lab is working on cultivating black soldier fly larvae, which can be used as protein-rich feed for tilapia fish. They employ a participatory research approach involving practitioners, students, and stakeholders in research and knowledge exchange. Hoinkis highlighted, “A salient feature of the PrAEctiCe living labs is that it involves practitioners, we show them around, students can come we work together in research, it is not an ivory tower.”

Miguel Ribeiro from CIRAWA presented three agroforestry demonstration sites and three plant nurseries on Santo Antao Island, Cape Verde. These sites aim to explore horticultural and tree crop diversity, drip irrigation, forage production and processing, biomass production, ecosystem support services, rural extension and educational activities. He emphasised that the benefit of a living lab is that it has experimental freedom because there is no financial pressure to produce crops, and it only has to show people results, which they can adopt as practices.  He explained that altering traditional farming culture is challenging because farming is predominantly a subsistence activity rather than for economic gain. Farmers only perceive a need to change their ways if they see what they will gain. As he puts it, “When they see that these farmers’ sweet potatoes are better and sweeter than mine, they might realise it’s because we put straw on their crops. We have to demonstrate the results to them.”

Mehretiab Tesfai, a representative of CANALLS, has stated that the organisation is currently implementing a project in several countries in Eastern Africa, including Cameroon, DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. The project’s primary objective is to establish agroecological living labs, which are physical spaces for collaborative workshops to identify and develop agroecological practices that can effectively address complex challenges. The solutions identified are then tested using a multimethod approach at experimental field sites on farmers’ fields. Tesfai said, “We have proposed establishing eight living labs, 4 in DRC, 1 in Cameroon, 2 in Burundi, and 1 in Rwanda.” The goal is to transform the agroecological farming systems in these areas from Level 1 to 3. Level 1 involves increasing the efficiency of inputs without climate impact, while level 3 involves redesigning agroecological farming systems across landscapes based on their ecological processes.

Gerrie van de Ven defined the Agroecology Living Lab, according to NATAE, as “a self-organised place of structural exchange between food system actors, for identifying and testing combinations of agroecological practices while working towards a joint venture for the implementation of agroecological transition.” The 6 NATAE living labs in North Africa are focused on developing and researching the basics of agroecological practices and working with stakeholders to develop systems. Additionally, they have seven replication labs to test and validate what they have learned, ensuring that it can be applied and expanded to other areas. Van de Ven emphasised that their approach focuses on innovation, co-learning, and systems thinking towards the sustainability of the farming system, with a holistic view of its impact on the entire system.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By using this website you agree to our Privacy Policy.
Read more