Participants of the AfSS 2016

What happens when you bring small-scale farmers, soil scientists, land rights and gender equality activists, academics, policy-makers and environmental stewards together in one space? Well, as the Global Soil Week has proven time and again, a beautiful exchange of knowledge and networking takes place, and the African Soil Seminar was no exception.

The Seminar, which was put together with our partners from the agricultural ministries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as GIZ, was held in Nairobi, Kenya, at the World Agroforestry Centre, from 28-30 November 2016. The two and a half days were packed with workshops and plenary sessions to discuss ‘Soil Restoration for Achieving the 2063 and 2030 Agendas in Africa: Linking Global Ambitions to Local Needs.’ The goal was to foster dialogue around the linkages between different development agendas and promote stronger cooperation for natural resource management now and in the future.

As Abdoulaye Mando, a soil scientist from GRAD Consulting Group, Burkina Faso, shared: “coordination is key – coordination of all actors, of policies, of intervention.” Indeed, national institutions need to be strengthened in order to ensure that the knowledge of successful sustainable land management and soil rehabilitation techniques are shared through existing platforms, and reach those that truly need it.

“We need to change the paradigm of how we actually begin to think about ending poverty and increasing food security,” Punam Kohlsa of York University encouraged; “the way we do that is to actually think about who is doing that on the ground.” Which is why events such as the African Soil Seminar are so important: an essential human element is added when farmers, scientists and policymakers can sit in the same room and discuss issues from personal experiences and local perspectives.

Many of the participants expressed gratitude for the ability to connect and share with people working on similar things and facing similar challenges. The Sustainable Land Management Marketplace – a place set up outside the main conference hall for different groups to showcase outcomes of and exchange knowledge on various soil projects – was a huge success in this regard. One participant, Paul Okong’o, a farmer from Western Kenya, remarked how he now had a “basket full” of strategies to take home to his farmer groups. It is exchanges like these that make events like the Seminar and Global Soil Weeks in general so productive.

Official outcomes from the Seminar, including the co-host and co-shair statements, as well as the IISD Final Report, can be found on our website.

Below is a short video of some participants and their main takeaways from the African Soil Seminar. We hope you enjoy – and Thank You to all participants for making #AfSS2016 such a success!