SIANI is proud to have hosted, for the first time ever, a members’ meeting outside of Sweden. We didn’t choose the UK, we didn’t choose Germany, we went all the way to Nairobi in Kenya, a country where SIANI has had a strong presence both in terms of expert group activity, but more importantly its where we find a largest number of our members outside Sweden.
We were happy to meet so many of you there and thank you for supporting our work with your ideas, knowledge and of course recommendations for actions we can focus on in the future. Although a whole range of topics were brought up, a couple of core thematic areas were at the front. Here’s the three big things we want to put forward from this meeting:
It all starts with people
At the heart of rural landscapes and food production you find the people working the land. At the same time, the working conditions, livelihood opportunities and wellbeing of the women and men that help put food on everyone’s table are still in need of improvement. One of the big questions is generational shifts – who’s going to take over as the average age of farmers increases?
At the meeting, there was a common outcry about the need to make farming an appealing future career for young people across the country. Likewise, any agricultural future without a strong footing in gender equality and women empowerment would be far from successful; it’s high time for women to take their rightful place with regards to decision making and land ownership!
Anchoring in knowledge
In order to make these changes happen, decisions must be made based on actual evidence rather than preconceptions. Fortunately, much research and knowledge already exists, but it doesn’t always reach those that need it. Fixing this situation requires work on many fronts, and one good place to start is education. Introducing basic, sustainable, agricultural ideas in curricula right from elementary level would plant a good seed to be watered in the future.
Challenging our assumptions also means allowing ourselves the freedom to think outside of the box and consider looking into the cultivation of new foodstuffs, like marine veggies. Of course, decision making is not only something exclusive for those at the top positions in society – it’s also very much about individuals and families where much of the vital farming decisions are made. Needless to say, gender equality and the ability to have joint decision making is of the essence here too.
Going far together
While theory is all well and good, without enabling environments and opportunities to act on our information and inspiration, few things get off the ground. As is often the case, access to finance plays a big part in all this. When combining the economic means with awareness of the existing possibilities, including those of partnerships and collaborations, it is possible to start walking the talk and go far.
Being open for mutual learning and making sure to communicate what we are doing also increases the chance for joint action, creating policies that enable all the bits and pieces to come together, from local initiatives to bigger trade issues.