Friday, March 1, 2013

Agro-Ecology Conference

Attended a conference last week on agro-ecology (which we defined as synthesis between agriculture- a word which in french means specifically raising crops- animal husbandry, and forestry: with a spirit of regeneration and stewardship)

As is always the case with events like these, the biggest outcome for me was reigniting the fire that inspires work in agriculture and environment. Getting a group of leaders in their fields like that together to share their ideas, techniques, and inner fire always brings further understanding and ideas for innovative solutions.
This guy's outfit was better than his presentation. It happens.

Crowd favorite, crushin' it.
One speaker in particular was a true inner-fire-candle (blow-torch?) An older man, he opted to skip the Powerpoint (gutsy!) and sat at a table facing us all and spoke. His words bore repeating, and I heard them again at lunch, both from my friends (he was the obvious favorite among the my young, african, agro friends) and at other tables around. He said, yes, we need agro-ecology practices that will assure durability from a socio-economic perspective, but we also need practices that will assure durability from a cultural perspective. He talked about integrative health of humans and ecologies- preventative before curative. He talked about learning from the peasants, and about taking into account traditional cultural values- tracking them and noting which ones are regenerative, which ones can save the world. He talked about poverty, hunger, and climate change as symptoms of a cultural malady- the divorce of man and nature. This resonated so strongly with me, with my permaculture training, the work I've done with Richard Louv, and the nature mentoring reading I've been doing. I love when life ensures that a particular message gets reinforced from different directions.

One aspect I was fascinated watching was the dynamic between the French and the Africans who were there. There was sort of this moment during the afternoon workshop where a French man asked the workshop host- the head of a Burkinabe coalition of sector-specific ag orgs- kind of incredulously why they were not working more closely with the equivalent organization in France. The workshop host answered respectfully and with a smile that the work could be done well autonomously. I was sort of silently picturing what this French guy would say if the workshop host had come to France and incredulously asked the head of an organization "Don't you know we have an organization just like this in Burkina Faso? Why aren't you working with us and following our model?" I was pleased that the workshop host treated him with such grace and kindness I probably would have asked him if he had some cheese somewhere he should be off eating (shout out to French people, I love you guys.)
My friend Paul listening dutifully after a long day.

I also experienced some Sciences-Po PTSD in the aforementioned afternoon workshop, which was about the dissemination of agro-ecology practices at the social and institutional level. The conversation was lofty, conceptual, and at times very hard to follow for a non-native speaker of crappy french (much like every moment of every day at Sciences Po Paris in 2009- shouts out!) I was a little jealous of my friends who'd attended the other workshops and talked about concrete, real things like compost and cow poop. But hey, thus is the fate of the francophony foodie-enviro-student of social sciences.

I've also been sitting in on some middle school courses, which is wildly humbling. I miss the way my brain worked before college and the internet.

I'm grateful for all the learning I've been able to do lately.


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  2. I'd like to react to the part you're talking about the workshop. In fact the workshop host were from the Burkina Faso peasant confederation. So as they do not work with the french one (, and do work with the national federation of the farmers syndicate ( which used to work with Monsanto and the others, the french man were surprised. And I think he were right.