The ABC and D of sustainable agriculture


Lothar J. Lechner Bazzanella, Biovision (Text) and Alex Maina, CIFOR-ICRAF (Pictures)

In Western Kenya, Biovision is researching how farming communities can be supported with a customised approach, combining typical elements of our work: targeted implementation of sustainable practices in the field paired with a scientific approach.

«Instead of offering a standard solution for an entire region, this project enables us to look at the resources that people already have to start off with. Then we develop solutions on this basis», explains Adrian Bolliger, the Biovision Programme Officer.

The project is called Asset-Based Community Development, or ABCD for short. The «A» and «B» in the project name stand for «asset-based», which also means «resource-based». This approach aims to identify and capitalise on the strengths, knowledge and skills within a community – «C» for communities. Particularly promising, efficient methods can be developed with the farmers as a result. This increases the participants’ personal initiative, and ultimately their success.

«Of course, this type of approach is very time-consuming», says Adrian Bolliger. «However, finding a customised solution is extremely important for Biovision. Instead of applying standardised methods across the board, we have scientifically investigated which resources are already available and can be used efficiently.»

«Combining farmers’ perspectives with scientific findings»; installation of a photovoltaic system on a roof.

An unconventional approach

The main aim of the project was to find out how a resource-based approach could help participants to make more effective use of the resources available to them in a more self-determined way.

Dr Lisa Fuchs is responsible for the scientific monitoring of the project in Kenya. She explains: «The ABCD approach helps participants to gain a better understanding of the resources they already have, and builds on this: what can I grow on my land, how am I getting on financially, and what techniques have I mastered? This is in contrast to many conventional approaches, which mainly register farmers’ needs and deficits – thereby significantly influencing their self-perception.»

Part of a larger whole

The ABCD project is part of the larger «Regreening Africa» initiative, which is implemented by dozens of organisations around the world to ensure more sustainable agriculture, to combat soil erosion, to promote access to a water supply and to strengthen biodiversity. Within this multitude of measures, Biovision is making a contribution with the ABCD project. In doing so, we are aiming to show how ABCD influences the uptake of agroecological practices and systems compared to conventional approaches.

The results of the study show that ABCD has made a significant contribution to the plans for «Regreening Africa». The farmers involved have a better appreciation of themselves, their skills and their resources. This has increased their self-confidence, measures have been implemented more consistently, and dialogue has been promoted within their communities.

Farmers’ self-confidence has increased: an artificial pond for irrigating the fields in the project region.

A research area already explored by Hans R. Herren

In the first project phase from 2021 to 2023, we worked on the ABCD project with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). In the next phase, which will continue until 2025, we are helping one of our main partners, the international insect research institute icipe, to adopt the approach. To do so, we are working in the Kenyan regions of Homa Bay and Migori, where icipe has its own campus – and where Biovision founder Hans R. Herren once conducted research.
We are building on the positive experiences from the first phase and encouraging the farmers to use their own initiative. At the same time, we want to make the scientific data on push-pull techniques available to other communities. «In this way, we are combining the perspectives, interests and knowledge of farmers with scientific findings so that together, we can develop the most suitable solutions for the specific region. Co-design is an important keyword», summarises Lisa Fuchs.
This will allow us to promote sustainable food systems effectively and in the long term. This will ultimately benefit farming families and the environment.

You can find more information about the ABCD project in the video.

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