In 2015 the Southern Africa Food Lab successfully secured funding from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust to implement the Agro-ecology Awareness (AeA) project in Mopani, Limpopo province, South Africa. For the AeA project, the Food Lab works in partnership with the Mopani Farmers Association (MFA). The AeA project forms part of Food Lab’s Supporting Smallholder Agriculture (SSA) programme. It envisions a more sustainable and resilient farming system in Mopani based on agro-ecological principles.


The aims of the project, which are in line with conservation agriculture as promoted by the FAO and DAFF, are to:

  • Transform smallholder farming practices from the reliance on conventional artificial fertilisers to agro-ecological principles
  • Ensure the resilience of the catchment and associated ecosystems on which smallholder farming is dependent
  • Enable smallholder farmers in the Mopani district to support household and community food security through surplus production

The Food Lab partnered with the 17 Shaft Training Centre in Soweto, Johannesburg to pilot the first training programme for trainers in agro-ecology, artisan skills, and leadership. The training took place from May to August 2016, after which the 7 trainers went back to the Mopani district to support those MFA members wishing to farm agro-ecologically.


In addition the trainers also received business management and market standard training, including the first ever PGS workshop in South Africa. The Food Lab also developed an introduction manual to localg.a.p. that can be downloaded here.


The Food Lab will also offer an in-community agro-ecology workshop towards the end of 2016 to introduce the Mopani community to the newly trained agro-ecology trainers.


Ideally the Food Lab wants to support a second group of 21 agro-ecology trainer-trainees through the three-month programme in January 2017, and is currently looking for funding opportunities to do so.

As part of the water governance leg of this project, the Food Lab produced a drought impact assessment of smallholder farmer experiences in the Mopani district between June 2015 and February 2016. During the same time, Gina Ziervogel published an article about the lessons the drought has taught us about climate change hotspots.


Blog post: How to feed our nation

News article: The riches of our soil – agro-ecology project for South Africa’s small-scale farmers on the move

Video: Training for trainers (first round 2016)

Video: Training for trainers (second round 2017)

Project Details


The WWF Nedbank Green Trust


July 2015


December 2016




17 Shaft Training Centre

Key Outputs

Farmer workshops

A database of MFA members

A drought impact assessment

In-community agro-ecology training workshops

Agro-ecology, leadership, and artisan training programme for trainers