Championing Agroecology in Limpopo
The Mopani Farmers Association Agroecology Hub in Limpopo provides agroecology training, for more than 100 young people every year. Xitshembiso Mabunda, a farmer and qualified agroecologist, oversees the hub and the training.
Training topics include land preparation, seed saving, maintenance, weeding, mulching, irrigation, compost making, packaging and marketing amongst other topics. The key premise of the hub is to show in practice the benefits of shifting from the industrial farming methods, which is heavily reliant on chemicals such as pesticides. Many of these synthetic pesticides are dangerous and have a damaging effect on people’s health and the environment.
The health risks associated with synthetic pesticides include hormone disruption, brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, blood and nerve disorders as well as birth and reproductive effects. Through agroecology, farmers are taught natural alternatives to pesticides like planting herbs such as marigold, assyllum, fenell and coriander to deal with pests instead of resorting to synthetic pesticides.
Farmers who practice agroecology not only produce healthier food, their crops are also better tasting too! “People are able to distinguish, just by the taste alone, the difference between those crops which are grown using agroecology practices and those which have been exposed to chemicals used as part of industrial farming practices,” says Alice Tivani from the Mopani Farmers Association.
Working holistically as a farming collective is an important principle of agroecology. Farmers are also taught about collecting dung and cattle urine which is useful when making liquid manure. Upon harvesting, farmers can also feed their cattle with any unused products.
Central to agroecology is the practice of the seed saving of traditional and indigenous seeds. At the Mopani Farmers Association hub, farmers are taught seed saving practices such as how to dry the seeds, how to use ash to save seeds and how to properly store seeds in a sack or a closed container.
The Mopani Farmers Association views agroecology as an important climate change adaptation measure. The traditional and indigenous ways of black farmers have been and are more in harmony with the environment than current modern day industrial forms of farming. Africa produces the least amount of the CO2 and other greenhouse emissions, yet Africa is one most vulnerable Continents to the devastation of climate change. This is a grave climate injustice.