Strengthening Agroecology-based Local Food Systems through Preserving Traditional Knowledge and Species

Image credit: Courtesy of the Agroecology Fund

Strengthening Agroecology-based Local Food Systems through Preserving Traditional Knowledge and Species

Bioregion Lake Turkana-Sudd Grasslands, Bushlands & Forests (AT21)
Category Regenerative Agriculture

Our project categories represent one of three core solutions pathways to solving climate change. Energy Transition focuses on renewable energy access and energy efficiency. Nature Conservation includes wildlife habitat protection and ecosystem restoration, as well as Indigenous land rights. Regenerative Agriculture supports farmers, ranchers, and community agriculture.

Realm Afrotropics

The Project Marketplace is organized by the major terrestrial realms divided into 14 biogeographical regions – N. America, Subarctic America, C. America, S. America, Afrotropics, Indomalaya, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctica, and the Palearctic realm, which coincides with Eurasia and is divided into Subarctic, Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern regions.

Status active

Seed indicates an early stage project that needs some level of support to develop into a larger funding proposal. Active indicates any project that needs core programmatic funding. Urgent indicates a short-term project initiated in response to a natural disaster or other impending risk.

Funding Level $$

$$ indicates a project with a funding need between $50,000-$250,000.

Timeframe Ongoing
Partner Agroecology Fund

One Earth’s Project Marketplace funds on-the-ground climate solutions that are key to solving the climate crisis through three pillars of collective action — renewable energy, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture.

Ethiopia is seeing its once rich biological and crop diversity eroded by industrial agriculture practices, including the introduction of hybrid seeds and chemical inputs. The ensuing deforestation and soil fertility degradation, coupled with the rising global costs of agricultural inputs, are also further straining farm productivity and threatening food security. Resolving these crises has been the main driver behind the work of MELCA in Ethiopia.

MELCA is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization founded by environmental practitioners and lawyers to empower local communities to conserve their biological and cultural diversity. MELCA is also a member of the African Biodiversity Network (ABN), whose vision and objectives they share.

MELCA seeks to continue its efforts to tackle the food and biodiversity crises by strengthening the productivity and resilience of local farming and food systems. It will promote agroecological practices at the grassroots level in the Wereilu District of the Amhara Regional State, while also supporting policy advocacy at the national level.

Seeds of empowerment

The new project draws from traditional knowledge to build agroecological awareness and capacity among smallholder farmer families. This approach is central to MELCA’s work.

Through MELCA’s Social Empowerment through Group Nature Interaction (SEGNI) program, local elders have been conveying to younger generations the importance of preserving natural resources and related cultural assets of their communities. SEGNI aims to mobilize rural communities for the preservation of their environment. Youths in three schools have formed SEGNI clubs to get parents and the community involved in the preservation of traditional knowledge and even seeds of local species. The meaning of the acronym segni in Oromiffa, one of the widely spoken languages of Ethiopia, is “seed.”

A local elder awarding certificates to young people after completing a Social Empowerment through Group Nature Interaction (SEGNI) program. Image credit: Courtesy of Agroecology Fund

Schooled in sustainability

As part of preserving traditional knowledge and culture, the project aims to restore local and locally adapted seed varieties and agrobiodiversity. It also aims to promote traditional agroecological practices such as ecosystem rehabilitation, water conservation, organic soil fertility management, integrated animal and crop husbandry practices, and Indigenous seeds preservation.

MELCA will promote these practices in partnership with the community-based Endelibe Local Seed Conservators and Producers Farmers Association it helped establish in 2019. MELCA also hopes to increase the number of members in the association, and thus contribute to sustainable food system transformation, notably through increasing the size of and access to the local seed bank.

Haro Melca Community Seed Producers and Conservators Associations (SCPCA) presented their local seed and foods. Image credit: Courtesy of Agroecology Fund

Women at the forefront

The project will notably aim at strengthening the active participation of local women in the production and marketing of agroecology-based healthy food products, thereby further enhancing their empowerment. 

This aspect of the project will build on an existing women-led economic infrastructure in the Wereilu district. Since 2016, MELCA has supported the establishment of more than 50 women’s self-help groups. These micro or grassroots saving and credit groupings, now comprising around 865 women, have already been engaged in eco- on-farm or off-farm livelihood improvement schemes or income-generating activities, including the production and supply of organic foods to local markets.

One of the member of the women’s self-help groups with her livestock herd acquired through the livelihood improvement schemes. Image credit: Courtesy of Agroecology Fund

From micro to macro

The result of these activities will be the increased dissemination and adoption of agroecological practices, with clearly measurable social, cultural, and economic benefits, as well as long-term environmental gains.

Making organic compost for experimental growing of local seed varieties in the Wereilu district. Image credit: Courtesy of Agroecology Fund

Supported by this body of evidence, MELCA intends to influence Ethiopia’s agriculture, seed, and food policy with the objective of getting agro-ecology based farming practice accepted by the government of Ethiopia.

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