Most soils across Africa are degrading and being lost to erosion. The conventional approach has been to push chemicals to ensure production. Research increasingly reveals that these chemicals contribute to killing soils, as well as causing harm to human health. Unfortunately, corporate and academic interests ensure a continuation of this ‘chemical life support system’.
During the last 50 years an increasing number of alternatives to the mainstream chemical approach have been emerging around the world and across Africa. Climate change, nutrition and research into the microbiology of soils have given increasing credence to what we now call an agroecological approach to soil management. These efforts tend to be dispersed. While networking has improved, there is still not enough joint learning around soil health improvement.
The session brings speakers linked to practical work around soil health through efforts of The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), working in collaboration with the Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) .A network of soil health improvement centres across the continent that work very closely with farmers is emerging. The aim is to encourage trials and learning towards identifying appropriate practices for advocacy purposes. Africa’s nutrition security depends on adopting a very different narrative to the current chemical one.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 500
Healthy topsoil forms a living matrix, a “soil sponge” that can soak up, hold, and filter rainwater, and maintain its structural integrity during water and wind events. This natural infrastructure makes life on land possible. By regenerating it, can address many of our major challenges:
- improve the health of crops, animals, and people
- provide resilience to flooding, drought, heatwaves, and wildfires
- recharge water tables
- clean up lakes and rivers
- improve air quality
- reduce conflicts over land and water
- create landscapes with food and water for all
- create habitat for diverse species
Didi Pershouse will engage participants in deep discussions about the soil sponge's central role in the soil-plant-animal-atmosphere continuum; how all life on land participates in the creation of the soil sponge; and how we can help create the conditions for it to naturally regenerate.
Much food production in Europe and North America depends on migrant workers. Yet, most people are not aware of the extreme working and living conditions involved in food production and processing. In many cases workers are people who have been forced to move to regions in the Global North due to climate change and conflict from rural and land-based livelihoods in poorer countries or regions. The criminalisation of migration is making people’s journeys to seek refuge increasingly dangerous and fuelling exploitation of people within the industrial food and farming system.
In this session, we will hear from members of La Via Campesina from Italy and the US-Mexican border region. This will allow us to consider the challenges faced by farmworkers on the front line of the transnational labour movement. We will ask what can be done to show solidarity with workers, and we will learn from the recent experiences of La Via Campesina organisers.
To understand how we can oppose racist oppression of land-based workers and challenge the systemic causes of exploitation, we will hear about new models of ethical agriculture run by Italians and migrant workers. To explore how similar struggles emerge in industrial food systems across the world, we will hear from Carlos Marentes who has been a labour organizer and farm worker advocate since 1977. The discussion will focus on long-standing struggles, new challenges in the context of coronavirus, and messages of hope and solidarity.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 25 (Full)
In this interactive workshop, author and activist Anna Lappé details the spectrum of food industry influence—from the most obvious (advertising) to the most hidden (like deploying third-party experts). Using real-world examples, she will help us increase our own capacities to spot industry spin. She’ll also explore some strategies advocacy groups and others have used to expose spin and how we can push back against the misinformation.
How can we heal ourselves and the planet? Soil health and gut health are inextricably linked by the food we grow and eat so maybe the solution is right under our feet and within us. Join Dr Sally Bell, GP and functional medicine practitioner, in conversion with Alexis Sinclair, Food and Nutrition Coordinator at FarmED. Hear about Sally’s journey, the Five Foundations, and her focus on the gut biome, soil health and regenerative food and farming. Learn more about the work at FarmED linking soil health and gut health. An open discussion and Q&A will follow.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 40 (Full)
The session aims to create a space for dialogue around the idea of agroecology as a movement for decolonization and racial justice. We would like participants to share their experiences and knowledge of agroecology and collectively examine both the opportunities and limitations of agroecology as it is practiced today. Through a series of interactive and dialogic activities we intend to look deeper at how industrialised modes of producing and managing food systems have shaped our ways of thinking, even within the agroecological movement itself.
We will start the session by sharing a call and response song as a grounding exercise. This will be followed by small group collective critical reading and discussion of definitions of agroecology from different sources. We will be asking participants to keep notes and think about what they can do practically and locally to further their understanding and practise of agroecology. Towards the end of the session we will ask participants to share with wider groups the results of their small group discussions. The session will be closed with a cultural offering: a poem, song, reflection or anything else participants may wish to offer.
Hear emerging findings from the UK’s largest farmer-led soil carbon research project, alongside cutting-edge insight on our understanding of soil carbon and the best protocols for measuring it. With discussion on why this is increasingly relevant for farmers and the associated opportunities and challenges.
Interest in soil health and its capacity to sequester carbon has risen dramatically in recent years. In some countries, farmers receive payments for soil carbon sequestration. However, uncertainties still exist in our understanding of soil carbon and the best ways to measure it.
In this session, we hear from different initiatives that are furthering our understanding about soil carbon. We find out about the pioneering work of the UK Soil Carbon Project, a partnership between the Farm Carbon Toolkit, Duchy College, Rothamsted Research, the University of Plymouth and 100 farms. The project is leading the way in developing protocols for measuring and valuing soil health and carbon sequestration, ensuring they are scientifically robust and practical at a field level. By tracking soil carbon over multiple years, the project is generating valuable data that helps us understand how different practices effect soil carbon.
In this panel we will hear directly from three countries – Honduras, Colombia and Paraguay – which have rich experiences of peasant struggle but also have very high levels of criminalization against peasants, indigenous, and afrodescendent peoples and other defenders of human rights. Each panelist, which represents a different member organization of the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations (Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo – CLOC-Vía Campesina), the Latin American expression of La Via Campesina, will speak about the situation in each of their countries as well as the importance of implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other Peoples Working in Rural Areas, a historic conquest of international movement La Via Campesina and adopted by the UN General Assembly in December of 2018.
ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. LIMITED SPACES: 30 (Full)
Globally we are starting to see women step into roles traditionally held by men while staying true to their feminine values’. If so, what are these values? Moreover, does livestock farming, with its emphasis on the cycle of life - ie reproduction, birth, and the rearing of youngstock - require specific traits considered to be inherently ‘feminine’’? How are these balanced against the goal to achieve maximum yield and profit for the farm - objectives which could be considered more masculine?
Whole Health Agriculture has invited commercially successful female farmers to share their individual experiences before inviting the audience to participate in a series of fun and engaging exercises to explore the benefits of the feminine (and the masculine) in livestock farming.