African Activists for Climate Justice

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Sowing the Seeds of Change: How Organic Agriculture training is Building Healthier Communities in Ethiopia

As farmers grapple with everything from extreme weather events to heat stress and wildfires, and agriculture becomes even less predictable in the face of a changing climate, governments need to help farmers transition to practices that increase resilience and dramatically decrease reliance on fossil fuel-based chemicals. The African Activists for Climate Justice Program (AACJ) has moved in the right direction by recognizing that organic agriculture can play an important role in our state’s climate plan.

Through a set of training, AACJ through the consortium Oxfam, African Youth Commission, Femnet, and Pan African Climate Justice Alliance raise awareness among farmers about the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides and the nexus with climate change in Oromia, Northern part of Ethiopia

A few weeks ago, you had your first Training on organic farming. How was the experience?

Woodrsoen: I participated in a previous training on organic and indigenous vegetables ( onions, lettuce, spinach, fruit trees) farming and production for my benefit. However, the AACJ training has given me the toolkit I need to share information on the importance of organic with others. It is always interesting how we know about the benefits of farming ecologically but does not know how to properly share that information with others. I am glad that I had this training, it was a missing part that I can incorporate now.

Walkie: Having done several pieces of training before, I was impressed at how diverse the content was and not too specific. In other training, I learned how to make compost or organic fertilizers while in this training, we learned how to train other people. It is such an important skill we need but doesn’t nurture. Being able to train others makes me think of the various ways to share my knowledge, especially with other farmers that I work with

With such a realization, what impact do you think the training has had on you?

Woodrsoen: I work with other farmers and producers who farm ecologically and do not use synthetic inputs. Sometimes you think you are alone and your efforts are getting lost in the wind. Meeting other organic farmers and supporters during the training affirmed that I am on the right path and renewed my belief in working together with nature. Through connecting with them, I learned even more about the importance of learning about climate change

 Walkie: I still remember the two pieces of training I had on climate change. I can only encourage all organic farmers and consumers to learn more about climate change. With the training, we learned how to facilitate and share our passion for organic farming and climate change with anybody. Whether they are politicians, commercial farmers,s or even consumers. I am more than inspired to share my climate change and organic knowledge beyond my community and with other communities in Oromia.

“The training helped us create a group of climate change and organic agriculture ambassadors who can train more farmers in the field. I am hopeful that these will impact climate change and organic discourse in Oromia”, Yonus Gebru, PACJA representative in Ethiopia

Walkie: I worked with farmers who don’t use chemicals in their production. I today a community advisor to 40 farmers and producers in my community. I will continue to encourage them to do this, I will select a pioneer farmer who has a great reputation and good relationship with the customers in their town, and I will do the training with them.

Why is organic important to you?

 Woodrsoen: When farmers use chemical products or growth hormones to enhance production, there is great damage to biodiversity as a whole. This not only affects the soil, animals, and plants but also the humans consuming the products. It is necessary to have organic production to show us how to grow in harmony with nature and that it is possible.

Walkie: I learned that When farmers use chemical fertilizers, they don’t get good results because the mineral particles are dead. So organic farming is a necessity for us. Not a choice, but a necessity. We can’t build good soil and improve yields without organic. Organic is part of the solution to keeping soil and biodiversity alive. That is why I decided to start making organic fertilizers to discourage the use of chemicals that damage the soil. 

It was such a diverse mix of participants who were from the farmer’s group, public and private sector, academics, and Civil Society Organisations. This created an atmosphere of exchange and mutual learning. As a Facilitator, among others, I was impressed by the practitioners’ statements during the field visit. For many participants, health was the main motivation for going organic, followed by economic reasons” said Benson Simba, Head of the Project management team

This story may be one of success today, but it shows that living with climate change will require adaptation and continued investment for years to come. UNEP’s 2021 Adaptation Gap Report called for an urgent increase in financing for climate adaptation. It found that adaptation costs in developing countries are five to ten times greater than current public adaptation finance flows, and the adaptation finance gap is widening.  

This sentiment echoed through dozens of pavilions and conference rooms in Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday as COP27 turned its attention to the vital issues of adaptation, agriculture, and food systems in the context of climate change.

“We need to help rural populations build their resilience to extreme weather events and adapt to a changing climate. If not, we only go from one crisis to the next. Small-scale farmers work hard to grow food for us in tough conditions,” Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Goodwill Ambassador for the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said during a press conference

These stories from across Africa demonstrate the extent to which local people and communities are reacting to climate change and taking matters into their own hands. Besides questioning the dominant industrial agriculture model that is exacerbating climate change and decimating food systems, this story suggests solutions and reiterates the same messages voiced by farmers, communities

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