Navigating trade-offs in agroecology in West Africa's food systems
African food systems face growing threats associated with the degradation of natural resources, increasing inequalities, and rising levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, all of which have been worsened during the past two years as result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true in West Africa, where 60% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Agroecology has the potential to complement conventional agriculture and inform the transformation of food systems towards more resilient and equitable outcomes, particularly for women. However, despite growing evidence on the viability of agroecology, there is still a lack of evidence on how changes in specific dimensions of food systems induced by the adoption of agroecology may influence other parts of the systems and contribute to, or curtail, their capacity to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals related to women’s empowerment, food security, health, sustainability, and economic inclusion. There is also a need to strengthen coalitions of actors that can drive an agroecological transition – which may not happen spontaneously –, that can do so at the right time, and that are able to recognize and navigate sustainability pathways among the different trade-offs.
This project will commission and coordinate research and synthesize a program of work to better understand and tackle trade-offs in transforming food systems via agroecological approaches in francophone West Africa. It will conduct diagnostic studies to inform the development of a call for proposals, provide technical and methodological backstopping to the research teams, and synthesize knowledge resulting from the portfolio of existing research. It will contribute to current research-to-action and research-to-policy initiatives by distilling and discussing evidence on the potential and the limitations of agroecology for more sustainable and equitable food systems at the national and regional levels. The countries where research will be conducted will be determined by the outcomes of a call for research proposals, which will be open to French-speaking countries in West Africa.