, 26 November, 2019 / 3:37 AM
Months after the global community was invited to work toward realizing the United Nations (UN) Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028 launched in May 2019 and offering, among other goals, an opportunity to eradicate hunger, a multi-agency conference has been convened in Kenya’s Nyahururu town with participants taking food security as one of the key focus areas.
Organized by the umbrella organization for Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America (CIDSE) and Caritas Africa within the framework of agroecology under the theme “Food for All, Care for Our Common Home,” the four-day conference comes months after various UN agencies issued a joint call for action to alleviate an impending humanitarian crisis due to food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.
In his keynote speech after presiding over the official opening of the conference Monday, November 25, Bishop Joseph Mbatia of Kenya’s Nyahururu diocese decried food insecurity experienced in Kenya since 2008 and called for a “holistic approach to attain food security, food safety and environmental protection.”
“This conference on agroecology is timely as it gives us an opportunity to reflect on how we can promote an agricultural practice that prioritizes the needs of farmers and minimizes the negative effects of our actions on resources and the environment,” the Kenyan Bishop said.
“With the recurrence of climate change, we have lots of drought and floods unlike previously and we thought agroecology would be the solution,” Kenya Coordinator for Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund, Fastenopfer, Stellamaris Muelar told ACI Africa in an interview on the sidelines of the conference Monday, November 25.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), agroecology is “an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems.”
“Agroecology is the alternative because it looks at the world we live in, especially in Kenya (where) we did a baseline (survey) and found that our farmers in the counties we work in, about 77% could not feed themselves from one harvest to the other,” Ms. Muelar explained.
Agroecology helps to achieve food security through its four dimensions – environmental, socio-cultural, economic, and political – Ms. Muelar, an agroecology expert, said.
While the environmental dimension focuses on agriculture that “interacts with ecology by mimicking nature to benefit from it,” the socio-cultural dimension encourages solidarity groups where farmers work together to get “more food and healthier sustainable diets,” she explained.
The political dimension allows inhabitants of village settings to form a network that increases their bargaining power, enabling them to influence policies for their benefit.
The economic angle focuses on the markets and whether farmers can produce what is demanded by the local markets and if so, whether they can “negotiate collectively for better prices.”
During the inauguration on the UN Decade of Family Farming on May 29, 2019, Pope Francis addressed himself to the then Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Professor José Graziano da Silva, highlighting the challenge of food in underdeveloped countries.
The Holy Father said that food crisis coupled with economic crisis “have prompted renewed efforts in various parts of the world to make farming not only a means of employment, but also of development for individuals and communities.”
With about 80 participants, those taking part in the Nyahururu conference are drawn from representatives of Kenya’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and Caritas in various dioceses, Fastenopfer, Trocaire, Misereor, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Caritas Germany, Caritas Italiana, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Africa represented by Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa