Scaling Farmer-led Agro-Ecology in West Africa


Lead Organization: Groundswell International

Partner Organizations: Food FirstILEIACentre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD); Sahel Eco; and Association Nourrir Sans Détruire.

Location(s): Burkina Faso, Ghana and Mali, West Africa

Award: $200,000 over 24 months (2012-2014)

The Fund awarded Groundswell International, in collaboration with five partner organizations, $200,000 to strengthen and amplify existing farmer- and women-led initiatives and organizations in Mali, Burkina Faso, and northern Ghana. Their goal is to spread agroecological farming systems, reinforce movements for food sovereignty, and advocate for supportive policies. These organizations will raise awareness, build capacity, and document and disseminate the practices and successes of agroecological methods of farming. Their efforts include conducting small-scale experimentation of agroecological farming practices and disseminating information on agroecological farming systems by increasing coverage on local radio and hosting conferences on agroecology advocacy for women and indigenous farmers. By developing and sharpening local farmers’ practices while also raising awareness on multiple levels, this project supports shifts in the language and direction of local, regional, and international agricultural policies in favor of environmentally responsible systems and will give women and indigenous farmers a more influential voice. 


  1. Improve and scale out existing farmer-led agro-ecological initiatives in selected regions of Mali, Burkina Faso and northern Ghana to improve soil fertility, production and address climate change.
  2. Strengthen the engagement of small scale farmer and women’s membership organizations (including the “We are the Solution” campaign) in advocacy platforms, in order to change local and national policies and programs to be supportive of agro-ecology.
  3. Document, systematize and disseminate lessons learned on spreading and scaling agro-ecological approaches.

Challenges that the Collaborative faced(s)

  • Overcoming the ideological barriers that constrain many officials and professionals in West Africa from recognizing the benefits of agroecology.
  • Divided among six collaborating organizations, the amount of funding provided did not allow us to carry out all activities initially planned.
  • We did not have adequate time or resources to develop a process to adapt agroecology training materials previously developed in Central America to the West Africa context.


  • We created a three country action-learning platform on agroecology in Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana, West Africa that includes program partners and a growing circle of allies;
  • We spread and deepened agroecological approaches with more family farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana; strengthened cross learning between countries; and linked community-level initiatives to wider advocacy strategies to create enabling policy environments.
  • In Burkina Faso, 60 farmer promoters experimented with and adopted agroecological strategies that improved soil fertility, and are teaching others farmer-to-farmer.  
  • In Ghana, we strengthened community-level adoption of agroecology; influenced the regional governments five year food security plan and budget to better integrate agroecology; and launched a national campaign in favor of seed sovereignty and against the introduction of GMOs.  
  • Mali, we convene a workshop with key national farmers and civil society organizations to develop a more coherent national agroecology network.

Over 20 million people in West Africa’s Sahel region suffer food shortages on an annual basis.  What can farmer-led agroecology do to help change that?   Woba Koubilenla, a young mother from eastern Burkina Faso, is showing the way.  With the support of Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (ANSD) and Groundswell International, she visited a women’s group in a nearby village to learn how they are restoring their soil and producing vegetables during the dry season.  She then organized women in her own village to do the same.  By 2014, she was earning $350 from, was able to feed her family, and keep her children’s in school.  She is now part of a 10,000 person farmer-to-farmer local movement, working to spread agroecological strategies to 100 villages, and change policies for the better.   Through our collaborative, we are connecting that farmer-led movement across borders. In Ghana, CIKOD is connecting community-level agroecology to national campaigns for supportive policies, and protect farmer’s rights over their own seeds in the face of efforts to push GMOs.  In Mali, SahelEco is spreading farmer-led regeneration of trees, and helping to show other partners how to regreen the Sahel.  Working together, we learn from each other and are stronger. 

Round 1Firas Nasr