The Agroecology Days on 12 and 13 April 2018 gathered a number of Madagascar’s rural development actors: authorities, research actors, technical and financial partners, private operators and project representatives. On the agenda: debates and field visits in Madagascar’s Midwest.
The objective of this event organized by the local association GSDM: conduct reflection on the dissemination of agroecological techniques at national level and on the strategies that need to be implemented to scale up these techniques (public policies, awareness-raising in schools, support to farmers…).
Focusing on sustainable agriculture
Indeed, in Madagascar, a rural country where 80% of the population lives in rural areas, there is a pressing need for alternative agriculture. The country is far from being self-sufficient in essential products and has to import up to 15% of its needs for rice, flour, sugar, milk powder, etc. In addition, while there is huge agricultural potential, production remains too limited: widespread deforestation on the island has led to soil erosion and degradation, which is exacerbated by over-farming in certain areas. Rural agricultural households also lack resources to invest in their activity and have very limited access to technical advice. Poverty and malnutrition consequently remain widespread in rural areas.
Furthermore, there is the threat of climate change: the Great Island is one of the most vulnerable ecosystems to climate hazards. Changing the situation consequently involves reconciling productivity and respect for the environment. It is for this reason that AFD promotes and implements a simple vision – agroecology: agriculture should be developed while preserving the natural capital, through an intensification in harmony with the available resources.
AGROECOLOGY: A REAL ALTERNATIVE
Agroecology is all about applying ecological science to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. The practices consequently combine various techniques based on natural processes in order to preserve the environment and sustainably manage natural resources: agroforestry, permanent soil cover, diversified crop rotations, composting...
These techniques increase the productivity of agricultural labor and secure and diversify production through crop combinations, because they save on inputs and make an optimal use of the agroecosystem. They provide a solution to address the current food, demographic and environmental challenges in Madagascar.
In 15 years, agroecology and support for family farms have thereby become one of the “trademarks” of our action for agricultural development in Madagascar. Alongside CIRAD and NGOs such as FERT and Agrisud, we strengthen professional organizations and the development of agricultural practices accessible to farmers, which are both effective and consume fewer natural resources.
These actions have a real impact on the lives of populations and their environment. For example, some 150,000 farmers around Lake Alaotra, in the Southeast and in the Vakinankaratra region have tested climate-resilient production systems and recognized agroecological techniques: use of cover plants, natural fertilizers, plantations of hedgerows, composting. These are all “sustainable” practices which significantly increase yields without using fertilizers and other pesticides. Farmers are not at all resistant and have developed their practices, which has led to an increase in their level of production.
This year, I’ve sown 3 plots of stylosanthes, which I’m leaving fallow. This allows me to protect the soil and restore its fertility. After a fallow year with stylosanthes, the rice which is grown on the plots gives excellent yields: some 4.8 tons per hectare. And I can use the stylosanthes to feed zebus. I also hope to develop the sale of stylosanthes seeds for farmers who are interested in these methods.
The latest project, PAPAM (Project to Support Agricultural Productivity) is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock with EUR 7m of AFD financing. PAPAM was launched in 2016 and aims to develop services to support farmers and sustainably improve productivity through the agroecological diversification and intensification of production systems.
For 15 years, AFD and its partners have been contributing to paving the way for new agricultural models and supporting changes in farmers’ practices.