The Centre Ecologique Albert Schweitzer (CEAS) and Biovision will begin a strategic partnership in 2021. Patrick Kohler, Deputy Director of CEAS, and Frank Eyhorn, Biovision CEO, clarify what they want to achieve together.
Laura Angelstorf, editor
Mr. Kohler, what is CEAS’s vision, and how do you intend to achieve it?
Patrick Kohler: We wish for a world in which every person can contribute to social and economic development and environmental protection. We are approaching this wish by contributing to positive social and economic dynamics in Africa. It is important to us to actively involve all stakeholders in shaping their own future. We call this co-creation. The beneficiaries in our projects are part of the solution to the problems they face. These are often very complex problems, which is why we involve researchers from a large network of universities and colleges in Switzerland and Africa in developing solutions.
Mr Eyhorn, Biovision has been working for over 20 years towards its vision of a world with enough food, produced by healthy people in a healthy environment. How does the partnership with the CEAS support this vision?
Frank Eyhorn: CEAS and Biovision share common goals with similar approaches, but in different geographical regions. While CEAS is active in Burkina Faso, Senegal and Madagascar, Biovision's work focuses on East Africa. At the same time, our organisations’ thematic focus areas complement each other: Biovision has a lot of experience in political dialogue and raising awareness; CEAS in using renewable energies and developing value chains. We can learn a lot from each other!
What role does promoting research and local community participation play?
Kohler: When necessary, we create partner programs between Malagasy, Burkinabe or Senegalese researchers. Together they work to adapt innovative solutions to the actual needs of these countries. They also work closely with local communities who best know the on-the-ground problems and circumstances. We must act upon and refine their ideas together so that they can actually use the methods or technologies developed.
Eyhorn: We rely on participatory research, too. Research conducted without the local actors who are supposed to apply the new methods often overlooks real needs. Our projects therefore seek to maintain continuous interaction between researchers and farmers, starting with formulating research content, all the way to testing new technologies in the field and disseminating successful innovations.
In your opinion, what are the most pressing problems in the field of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa? What can Biovision and CEAS contribute to solving them?
Kohler: First of all, I would like to emphasise that the African continent does not only have problems. It was, for example, the continent with the highest economic growth before the COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, Africa is facing many challenges. Half of the people living in poverty worldwide live on the continent. Environmental degradation is a factor that exacerbates this poverty, and it is important for development cooperation to respect planetary boundaries. Soils need to be enriched in order to increase long-term agricultural yields. Similarly, access to energy, essential for developing economic and social activities, must not cause additional greenhouse gas emissions. We are trying to achieve all this in close cooperation with our African partners to fight poverty alongside developing ecosystems in a healthy way. Africa has a bright future ahead.
Eyhorn: Specifically, Africa must provide a growing population with healthy food without degrading its natural resources – and this in a changing climate. Young people in particular must also be able to earn an income. The agroecological approach, as advocated by CEAS and Biovision, offers great potential here.
What are the next concrete steps in the partnership between Biovision and CEAS?
Eyhorn: Exchanging knowledge and experience, both here in Switzerland and among our partners in Africa, is certainly the top priority. The question in the foreground is how we can make our work even more effective. Access to each other’s networks plays a role that cannot be underestimated.
Kohler: Also, jointly developing regional projects in which each alliance partner implements activities in its priority countries is also conceivable, provided that such opportunities arise. In any case, we will have intensive exchange about how we can further develop our systems to measure impacts and create continuous learning.