New data shows that only a fraction of agricultural research funding in Africa is being used to transform food and farming systems by supporting sustainable, regenerative practices, also known as “agroecology.”
That’s according to a new report that examines financial flows in food system research to sub-Saharan Africa, with a view to understanding more about how the industrial model is perpetuated.
For example, about 85 percent of projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s biggest philanthropic investor in agri-development, are limited to developing industrial agriculture, or increasing its efficiency. Only 3 percent of their projects in Africa support sustainable, regenerative approaches.
The report was co-developed by Switzerland-based Biovision, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), and the U.K.-based Institute of Development Studies (IDS).
Approximately 30 percent of farms around the world are estimated to have redesigned their production systems around agroecological principles.
The report finds that support for agroecology is now growing across the agri-development community, particularly in light of climate change, but this hasn’t yet translated into a meaningful shift in funding flows. The authors argue that change can’t come soon enough.
“With the compound challenges of climate change, pressure on land and water, food-induced health problems and pandemics such as COVID, we need change now. And this starts with money flowing into agroecology,” said Hans Herren, president of Biovision and IFOAM – Organics International board member.
To accelerate this shift, the report calls on donors to: shift towards long-term, pooled funding models; require projects to be co-designed with farmers and communities; increase the share of funding going to African organizations; and increase transparency in how their projects are funded, monitored and measured for impact.
Olivia Yambi, co-chair of IPES-Food, said: “We need to change funding flows and unequal power relations. It’s clear that in Africa as elsewhere, vested interests are propping up agricultural practices based on an obsession with technological fixes that is damaging soils and livelihoods, and creating a dependency on the world’s biggest agri-businesses. Agroecology offers a way out of that vicious cycle.”