A community of practice within a community of practice
The McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) (http://www.ccrp.org/) funds collaborative research projects that aim to explore solutions for sustainable, local food systems.
Agroecology, put simply, is an ecological approach to agriculture, which centres on food production that makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging these resources. Across the world, scientists, researchers, NGOs, CBOs, activists, farmers, consumers, universities and others are working in the agroecology space.
IDEMS is supporting Manor House Agricultural Centre (MHAC) to build an agroecoloogy hub in the form of a community of practice which brings together over 20 other east African partners already engaged in agroecological initiatives. It has an overarching aim of bridging the gap between science, practice and movement in agroecology, and is building from the the experiences of CCRP’s own agroecological research focused community of practice of which it is a member.
Farmer Research Networks (FRN)
FRN’s have emerged from CCRP as a powerful approach to agroecological research. The Agroecology hub supports a number of FRN initiatives and is actively encouraging farmers interested in experimentation to engage with FRN approaches. At the heart of the FRN approach is a change of power dynamic whereby farmers are introduced to principles of research and then empowered to be more active decision makers. From a researcher perspective the FRN approach enables them to have much larger and richer datasets that they could otherwise dream of having access to while having to accept the complexity of the resulting data.
The Agroecology hub is still finding its place and role in the growing agroecology community, but enabling aspects of FRN approaches to be more accessible to a wider audience is certainly part of the mission. Practical agroecology workshops have become an effective tool, by engaging farmers and partners in hands on activities and then drawing their attention to the research and agroecological principles they have been engaging with for discussion and reflection.