FOOD insecurity is one of the major problems facing Africa and hindering her socio-economic development. 

Recent reports from African Union (AU), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) confirm that millions of people, Africans included, are unable to meet minimum food needs.

David Beasley, the executive director of UN WFP recently told the UN Security Council that about 345 million people face acute food insecurity worldwide – a clear indication that food insecurity has reached extreme levels.

The sad part is most countries affected are either dealing with conflict, effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or rely on imports from countries such as Ukraine and Russia which are in conflict.

Climate change has also not spared many countries. 

The demand of food in Africa, however, shows a need for solution-based initiatives such as sustainable agriculture production and setting up of systems that can meet the climate crisis.

To improve food production, some African farmers are already practising low-cost farming with locally available inputs that promote organic agriculture.

But what is organic agriculture? 

According to FAO, organic agriculture is an integrated production management system which promotes and enhances agrosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biology activity.

It emphasises the use of natural inputs (mineral and products derived from plants) and the renunciation of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

One of South Africa’s organic farmers Bulelwa Banton Lukabya better known as Mam Bosa is tackling climate change in Africa by exploring agroecology to mitigate and adapt strategies of the crisis.

Born in Cofimvaba in Eastern Cape before relocating to East London, Mam Bosa’s story is not that of a solitude farmer who is just experimenting with the soil, but it is a journey of a passionate woman who has realised that her input can contribute to positive changes within African societies.

She has mastered the knowledge of farming not only to produce food for her family but to fight climate change and promote agroecology in surrounding communities.  

She spoke passionately about the benefits of how organic farming has improved the socio-economic life of communities around her.

“I am an organic farmer promoting agroecology in communities especially those that are women-focused,” she said.

I use my time encouraging neighbours and households within the community to have backyard gardens and make sure that something comes out of it.”

To Mam Bosa, any space available provides the basis of practising farming and experimenting with seeds. 

“In the community that I’m from, I make sure open spaces are used for planting vegetables as a way to prevent dumping of rubbish and hiding spaces for thugs,” she said.

Her enthusiasm in agroecology and development of Africa has also motivated her to share and transfer knowledge to others.

Mam Bosa said her goal is to empower fellow women and see the rest of Africa embracing agroecology.

“Women are affected by climate change the most because of their responsibility to provide food for the family and community,” she said. 

“I therefore share with them the knowledge I have mastered, be it of indigenous seeds, ways of saving them and preservation methods.”

Together with a team of women, Mam Bosa turned a dumping area in her community into an organic farming space, a move that can be done by farmers in different societies in Africa.

Inspired by her role model, her late mother, Mam Bosa learned well the notes passed on to her. 

Her story highlights the need for Africans to embrace and use indigenous knowledge in agroecological and climate change-resilience practices.

To ensure that there is no loss of that indigenous knowledge; Mam Bosa is also raising awareness by encouraging different communities in Africa to share and grow indigenous seeds or herbs in their local areas.

She also stresses the need for people to learn and ‘take something’ important from the community they grew up in.

“Growing up in an area where there is an irrigation scheme also helped me embrace agriculture and to think of ways I can give back to other communities,” added Mam Bosa.

Mam Bosa is currently working with various groups also contributing to food security.

Some of the groups include Reeston, Bekela, Eyethupha, Embo Yakwantu and Sinebhongo female farmers groups, as well as Siqedindlada Cooperative.

She is also part of Africa Organic Standards Association (AOSA), an organisation promoting the establishment of single Pan-African Organic Standard.

However, despite using natural inputs, indigenous seeds and herbs, Mam Bosa says cooperation is needed to tackle challenges associated with practising organic farming.

Some of the challenges are also common in most African countries and they include access to seedlings, land, agricultural water and lack of financial resources. 

Despite these and more challenges she is faced with, Mam Bosa is a determined and resilient farmer who is planning to spread agroecology to different people and spaces across the continent.

She said she is planning educational visits targeting primary schools in order to instil knowledge of organic farming to the young so that they can embrace it at a tender age.

According to Mam Bosa, it is also crucial for farmers to get more information about indigenous farming methods, seeds and herbs from the elderly before the knowledge gets extinct.

With viable support, farmers like Mam Bosa can play an important role in feeding their families, communities as well as ensuring food security in Africa.

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