Agroecological understanding, practice and advocacy in South Africa

The Fastenaktion (formerly Fastenopfer) International Programme on Food Justice is an international policy programme that has as its transformative long-term focus the promotion of sustainable food systems in the Global North and South, which are based on the principles of the Right to Food and agroecology. The long-term impacts the programme works towards are: 

  • Small-scale farmers and indigenous people – women and men – take a central role in the food systems and have regained control over natural resources. 
  • Seeds are acknowledged as a common good and biodiversity is protected. 
  • Agroecology is accepted as a climate-resilient alternative agricultural model. 

The programme includes partners in Switzerland, Philippines, South Africa, and Guatemala and the partners use the implementation of UNDROP as the overarching political and legal process. While numerous actors use the term agroecology or describe their work as such, experience has shown differences in the practice on the ground. This has raised a problematic between theory and practice. 

The purpose of this research was to gain insight into the extent and state of agroecological understanding, practice and advocacy in South and Southern Africa. The research aims to generate knowledge that will be useful to the Fastenaktion International Programme on Food Justice to inform its strategies and work at a global policy level as well as in Southern Africa, and to contribute to reflection and learning on agroecology in Southern Africa. 

This report combines a scan of current organisations supporting practical work on agroecology with farmers based on responses to an online survey in February-March 2022, together with information from follow-up field visits conducted with selected organisations in June-August 2022. It delves into agroecological practices, and why organisations have decided to focus on agroecology. It draws out key challenges and opportunities according to respondents. An overarching guiding question was whether agroecology is an appropriate entry point into South African and regional farmer support towards a climate-resilient alternative agricultural model. The report shows that there is an active set of organisations working on agroecology in South Africa, with varying local and provincial networking but limited national coordination. Respondents highlight the ecological but also the health, social justice and redress dimensions of agroecology, as well as strong resonances with indigenous knowledge and adaptation of agroecology as a concept to the specific contexts of its application. 

Download the report here.