Africa consists of a massive network of infinitely many tiny paths that collectively go everywhere, but in any one place only the locals know where each path leads. This ‘African roads’ concept forms a good analogy for the agroecological approach needed for sustainable human cultivation on the continent. Instead of a few blanket solutions that are uniformly applied, a variety of techniques needs to be tailored to the local environment, knowledge, and peoples. The environmental challenges in Africa are multiple, including soil degradation, a hotter climate, water scarcity, elevated pest pressure, endangered biodiversity, and human-wildlife conflicts – the consequences of which are increasingly felt.
Agroecology, as an inclusive bottom-up process, has the potential to find optimal solutions to these challenges. However, the initial success of typical agroecological practises, including push-pull technology, integrated pest management, use of legumes and rhizobia, and no-till, were later shown not to be universal. It is becoming ever more clear that environmental context, in space and time, calls for local adaptation of agroecological principles and tailored solutions: African roads. Finding effective ways to address the environmental challenges is key. This is true not only for the developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa themselves, but also for the developed countries that depend on them as net importers of African products and (indirect) labour, and net exporters of environmental problems.
In this two week intensive on-site field course we will take a highly multidisciplinary mix of participants and instructors on a tour of the agroecological opportunities and challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. We will visit farming communities across the wide environmental and economic gradients found along the Rift Valley in Kenya, to see how the local biophysical and socio-economic context matters. We will engage in a transdisciplinary learning experience with local stakeholders to come to a common understanding of how agroecological principles can be applied, allowing participants to build understanding and find solutions across disciplinary boundaries in their own work.