Synecoculture Africa Advocacy Document

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Synecoculture Africa Advocacy Document
Synthesis of FOOD Africa Project

1. The Problematic of Poverty and Food Insecurity in Africa[edit | edit source]

1.1 The Magnitude of Hunger and Poverty in Africa[edit | edit source]

Despite its large endowment in natural resources and huge potential for food production, African is today confronted with rampant poverty and severe hunger. The impact of climate change is exacerbating this already daunting situation. Recent forecasts suggest that food security in Africa will continue to worsen if the current trends remain unabated. In fact, it is estimated that the number of malnourished people in Africa will reach 320 million in 2025 up from 256 million in 2017. Furthermore, it is estimated that the continent import bill of food commodities could reach 110 billion US dollars in 2025 up from its present value of 35 billion dollars (AfDB, 2014; FAO, 2018). As far as poverty is concerned, the perspectives are neither better; while other regions of the world have made significant progress in reducing poverty, there has been a much slower pace of poverty reduction in Africa where extreme poverty is becoming more and more concentrated. According to the World bank’s report (2018), sub-Saharan Africa now accounts for most of the world’s poor, and the total number of poor in the continent is increasing. The number of poor people in the region has grown from an estimated 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015 despite a relative decline from 54.3 per cent to 41.1 per cent during the same period; this reflects the high growth rates of the population.

Therefore, it goes without saying that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 were not achieved by most African countries; that is reducing poverty and hunger by half by 2015 - from the base year level of 1990. Though poverty and hunger remain major challenges to the entire world, it is more severe and more spread in Africa. In other words, extreme poverty is becoming increasingly an African problem.

The Sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 are a set of 17 goals aiming at ending poverty on all its forms by 2030 including a) ending extreme poverty in all forms (goal 1);b) achieving food security, improving nutrition, ending hunger, and promoting sustainable agriculture development (goal 2); c) taking urgent actions to combat climate change and its impact (goal 13) (UNGA, 2015).

At the halfway of the implementation of Agenda 2030, it appears unlikely that the goals will be achieved unless there is a redoubling of efforts. In fact, the number of hungry people in the world has increased over the last three years to reach its level of 10 years ago, and the number of poor people has increased consecutively for the last three years (see figure 1).

1.2 The Causes of Persistent Poverty and Hunger in Africa[edit | edit source]

The persistence of poverty and hunger in Africa is generally explained by the low productivity of agriculture that constitutes the main economic sectors in most countries, this is more important that the majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. Other factors include conflicts, and poor environmental conditions in some regions (desert, Sahel). There are also inappropriate economic policies and strategies, and the new emerging issue of climate change.

Concerning economic (GDP) growth, there is now a general consensus that the drivers of African economic growth (petrol, minerals, and raw agricultural commodities) are not poverty-reducing ones. In fact, according to the latest reports, African countries have witnessed a high level of economic growth over the last two decades. Unfortunately, this economic growth has not been translated into the improvement of the wellbeing of the population (African Union Commission, 2018). According to the AU Agenda 2063 (AUC, 2013), “the goal of a prosperous African population requires strong, sustainable and inclusive growth that creates decent jobs and reinforces social cohesion by curbing inequalities”. Therefore, to achieve the Agenda 2063 aspirations, new development strategies are necessary. Further alleviating poverty requires reducing income inequality. The AUC’s report states that lowering Africa Gini coefficient from 41 to 35 (the average level of developing Asia), each percentage of GDP growth would reduce its poverty headcount by an additional 0.0 percentage points a year; such a decrease in inequality would reduce the number of poor people by 130 million per year.

The African agriculture sector remains severely undercapitalized and predominated by small subsistence farmers. The sector still relies on rainfall and long fallows practices. As a result, African agricultural productivity is the lowest in the world and production increase is much due to the expansion of cultivated areas leading to over-exploitation of natural resources, and land degradation. However, the continent still has an abundant untapped agricultural production potential. It is estimated that only 6 per cent of total arable land and 4 per cent of irrigated land are used. In order to address the above agricultural development problems, African Leaders adopted in 2003 the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to foster the development of this sector within the global frame framework of New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD, 2001). More recently, African Leaders also adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Africa Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods Transformation (AUC, 2014) to recommit themselves to the principles and values of the CAADP process with the aim of i) enhancing investment in agricultural ; ii) ending poverty in Africa in 2025; iii) halving poverty by 2025, through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation; iv) boosting intra-Africa trade in agricultural commodities and services; enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems to climate change; etc..

Therefore, there is the political will and a strong commitment of African Leaders to eradicate poverty and hunger in the continent. This willingness and commitment are clearly stated in the Agenda 2030 (SDGs), and the AU Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want.

2 The Challenges facing African countries in Achieving The 2030 and 2063 Agendas[edit | edit source]

2.1 Rethinking African Overall Development Strategy[edit | edit source]

African countries need to rethink their development strategies in order to create and retain wealth for the improvement of the well-being of their population. This will require that at least the following actions, not exhaustive, be taken:

- The shift in the overall development strategies (pioneering than following) to make sure they benefit the people in the continent; - Sustainable and Inclusive Transformation of Agriculture; - Addressing the Issues of climate change; - Mobilization of domestic resources and development of commodity values chains and Agro-industries; - Development of Human resources (health and education); - Developing the Institutions - Developing the Infrastructures - Harnessing the Technologies - Promoting Regional Integration.

All these issues are intertwined and interact with each other and therefore, need a global approach as they cannot be handled in a silo.

This Advocacy Paper, However, will focus on the development of an African sustainable agriculture sector that addresses the trilemma issues of productivity-environment-health. In short, it examines the rationale for shifting from current agricultural practices so that to trigger an African Green Revolution that takes into account the specific socioeconomic and cultural context of the various agro-ecological zones of Africa. The next section is devoted to the discussions on the rationale and challenges for achieving the African Green Revolution.

2.2 The Rationale and Challenges for Achieving an African Green Revolution[edit | edit source]

2.2.1 Why should Africa strive to achieve its own Green Revolution[edit | edit source]

The paradox of Africa heavy reliance on food imports is that 60 per cent of the continent’s active population is engaged in agriculture. Africa encompasses 65 per cent of the world’s arable land, and it has an abundance of underutilized water supplies. In fact, modern technology-driven agriculture that is resilient to climate change, job and wealth creating, and health-promoting is yet to be developed. Africa missed the Green Revelation of the early 1960s that helped reduce poverty and hunger in Asia. As a result, Africa’s agricultural productivity is very low. For instance, cereal yields are only 41 per cent of the world average. Private sector infrastructure, beyond production, remains relatively underdeveloped indicating a severe undercapitalization of the sector. High rates of poverty prevail, especially in major agro-ecological zones like the sub-humid Guinea Savannah and the semi-arid Sahel regions, and most of the rural areas. Africa is already disproportionately affected by the impact of climate change because of its over-dependence on the rain-fed agriculture sector. African farmlands and rangelands are becoming more and more degraded, and this is causing farmers to face declining yields. African agricultural transformation can substantially improve the quality of life of Africans and support economic growth. The conditions for transformation are beginning to materialize in a number of African countries. Liberalization of input markets, expansion of innovative agricultural finance, and land policy reform have allowed significant advances to be made across Africa. This has led to pockets of transformation across the continent. However, the process of the African agricultural transformation should take a different path. This is necessary to take into account the negative impact of current agricultural practices based on the use of a few high yield verities of crops and manufactured fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Not only these inputs are not accessible to or affordable for the majority of the small farmers, but also they contribute to the pollution of the environment, the reduction of the biodiversity, and are harmful to the health of the population.

2.2.2 The Imperative to move away from business as usual[1][edit | edit source]

Over the past two decades, nature areas have been converted into cultivated land on a grand scale, with a total global cropland expansion of around 68 million hectares (more than 16 times the size of the Netherlands). Cropland expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for no less than 47 million hectares, around three-quarters of the total (FAO, 2016) (Table 1.1). Agricultural expansion is viewed as the main cause of biodiversity loss. For Sub-Saharan Africa, half of the additional loss over the 2000–2030 period may be attributed to agriculture (Hilderink et al., 2012). A widely held view on the cause of Africa’s expected high level of expansion is that of large population growth combined with yields that lag behind those observed in other parts of the world (AUC and NEPAD, 2013, p. 17). While global yields have increased considerably during the second half of the 20th century, those in Africa have been lagging behind and have only begun to improve in recent years (Frankema, 2014; Inter Academy Council, 2004; Burch et al., 2007). Apart from population growth, other developments such as high economic growth rates, rapid urbanization and the rise of the middle class are expected to drive a strong increase in the demand for food and a related run on potentially suitable agricultural land (Hilderink et al., 2012). The issue of large-scale land acquisition, or ‘land grabbing’, by foreign investors has been raised by non-governmental organizations and researchers as another matter of concern (e.g. OXFAM, 2016; GRAIN, 2016), although the term conceals large differences in its origins, manifestation and impact of large-scale land acquisitions (Hall, 2011; Van Leeuwen et al., 2014; Mehta et al., 2012). In addition, increasing competition with non-food uses of agricultural lands, such as for fibres and biofuels, could aggravate land scarcity for food production. Land availability, in terms of quantity, is not the only issue Sub-Saharan Africa faces with respect to the sustainability of its food production. The quality of agricultural land is also an issue for feeding a growing population. Soil erosion and intensification of farming systems without replenishment of nutrients (soil mining) result in land degradation and lead to increased pressure on the land available for food production (Place et al., 2013, Tittonell and Giller, 2013). Degraded soils also retain less water and, thus, increase the impact of climate-change-induced drought on crop production. The increasing scarcity of land suitable for agriculture is expected to cause rising land prices, which in turn will make it much harder for the poor to have access to land. This is especially relevant in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over half of the people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods (FAO, 2014). In addition to issues of land quality, the availability of water resources is also important for food production. Most of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa comes from rain-fed agriculture, and in many areas, the amounts and timing of rainfall are uncertain. This uncertainty is exacerbated by climate change in many regions. As stated above domestic food production, foreign investments, non-food production purposes and the substitution of degraded land, all have a certain claim on the land. And in addition, there is Sustainable Development Goal 15, which requires land for conservation of biodiversity. And although the general trends in land-use changes related to food production are known, to a certain extent, and countless case studies are described in the literature, the intermediate, national dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa are not well understood – even though it is precisely the national level that is most relevant for national public policymaking. While the general trends show rapid growth in many areas – such as in agricultural expansion, population, economy, and urbanization these developments vary greatly between and even within African countries. In addition, the high growth rates often mask the fact that the initial level of growth was very low. Moreover, Sub-Saharan Africa is a region of high diversity and stark contrasts. It has the highest population growth rates while being one of the least populated regions of the world. Despite some of its staggering economic growth rates it houses most of the world’s poor and receives the greatest share of Official Development Assistance (ODA). For development in relation to poverty, hunger and more recently loss of biodiversity (IAC, 2004; Burch et al., 2007). The ongoing attention for African agriculture in relation to food, land and biodiversity has yielded a vast amount of reports about the African continent and studies focused on agricultural production at community or plot level. Most of these studies present clear storylines, stressing how African agriculture needs a ‘green revolution’. The analyses appear to have less attention for the large differences between trends in food supply on national levels. decades, international organizations, scientists and donor countries have investigated agricultural.

2.3 The Role of Institutions[edit | edit source]

The induced innovation theory by Hayami and Ruttan (1985) further examines and formalizes the relationship between population and land use, in terms of factors of production. This theory states that the emergence of relative resource scarcities causes changes in relative factor prices. These price changes induce innovations aimed at saving on the most expensive resource (Ellis, 1993; Turner et al., 1996). Thus, in areas where labour is the most expensive resource, innovations will save labour, whereas, in countries where land is the scarcest factor of production, innovations tend to save the land. From this, Boserup’s conclusions follow, which say that when land is abundant and labour is scarce, shifting cultivation is a reasonable production strategy, but when labour becomes more easily available and land becomes scarcer due to population growth, farmers will look for ways to intensify. Hayami and Ruttan, in fact, argued that the Green Revolution was so successful in Asia because it came exactly at the moment that land became scarce relative to labour (Hayami and Ruttan, 1985; Otsuka and Place, 2013). While Boserup assumes a direct link between population pressure and intensification, the induced innovation theory recognizes the importance of institutions; relative factor prices induce public and private research into resource-saving innovations and institutional arrangements enable farmers to influence research priorities. The theory does assume the existence of some basic institutions in which these innovations can be developed as well as a fairly well-functioning market, both of which may be absent or malfunctioning in many developing countries.

The importance of institutions also features prominently in more recent theories of land-use change. Lambin et al. (2001) argue that the assumption of straightforward relationships between population pressure, poverty, infrastructure and land-use-change dynamics offer an oversimplified picture and rarely contribute to a better understanding. Instead, expansion– intensification dynamics follow economic opportunities that are mediated by institutional factors and are increasingly influenced by global conditions (Lambin et al., 2001, Lambin and Meyfroidt, 2010; Meyfroidt et al., 2013). An example is the dynamics that Lambin and Meyfroidt (2010) describe as the globalization pathway. This occurs when a developing economy becomes increasingly integrated into global markets. On the one hand, exports of forest and agricultural products increase, possibly leading to elevated pressures on local land (i.e. the displacement effect). At the same time, growing global tourism leads to an influx of people with different ideologies about the way nature should be. Increased tourism combined with private investment leads to a growing focus on forest conservation, for example on private land, mediated by international NGOs, multilateral conventions and aid agencies. At the same time, migration patterns shift from an orientation on nearby cities to more distant, economically advanced countries. The shift away from agricultural activities and the increased amount in remittances sent back home by these migrants further add to a decrease in the pressure on local land (Lambin and Meyfroidt, 2010). The resulting net effects from this complex interplay of dynamics are difficult to predict and indeed much less straightforward than any of the simpler theories described above.

The authors of a 2005 meta-analysis of 100 studies on agricultural intensification in the tropics also found this complexity (Keys et al., 2005). Some local cases follow a Malthusian pattern while others show evidence of Boserupian land-use change dynamics. According to the authors, even the notion of population growth itself is too simplistic, as seasonal, generational and permanent migration affect land use in a highly dynamic fashion. In some cases, population pressure was a significant factor, while in others, different institutional factors (e.g. markets, government programmes, structural adjustment policies) outweighed this significance of population pressure. In addition, local and/or urban markets were found to have a different effect on land use than global markets. Nearby urban markets appear to increase the focus on intensification in high-value horticulture and fruit production, while international markets mainly stimulate specific arboricultural products, such as coffee, tea, cocoa and vanilla. There is also a relationship between market types and land tenure, since cultivating trees that take several years to bear fruits implies a certain degree of tenure security, revealing once again the interdependence of the factors of the intensification– expansion dynamics and the heavy dependence on context. A pattern that did emerge was the overall importance of institutions for intensification, leading the authors to conclude that future studies should take into account a broad range of institutional factors, including property regimes and government and NGO programmes.

However, the interactions between institutions, governance and policy measures and their outcomes make it very difficult to distinguish cause and effect, which means that results should be interpreted with caution (Lambin et al., 2014). In addition to stressing the importance of institutions, Keys and McConnell, as well as many other researchers, call for standardization of research protocols so that individual cases can be compared, and conclusions can be scaled. One important gap in the data, emphasised by Keys and McConnell, is the absence of reliable and comparable data on the biophysical aspects of land- use systems, which makes it very hard to set a baseline for analysis (Keys et al., 2005).

2.4 What are the Options Available for the Africa Green Revolution[edit | edit source]

According to Husman & all. (2016), by 2050, the world population is estimated to reach 9.5 billion, 2.3 billion more than the current level. Almost half of this population growth is expected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 2016). The question of how to feed the growing population in a sustainable manner is high on the international policy agenda. Hunger and malnutrition have proven to be persistent problems despite the fact that the global food production level would be sufficient to feed the world population (2851 kcal per person per day, at a roughly estimated daily minimum of 2100 kcal, according to the UN World Food Programme, (FAO, 2016; WFP, 2016). While the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger was reached in the developing world (United Nations, 2016), 795 million people were still undernourished in 2015 (FAO, 2016). Of these people, a disproportionate 28% live in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region housing only 13% of the world’s current population (FAO, 2016). In line with these figures, the successor of MDG 2, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 aims to end world hunger. At the same time, SDG 15 aims to halt biodiversity loss. In the light of the staggering population growth rates in many African countries, both SDGs touch upon a widely debated trade-off between increased agricultural production through expansion and the resulting loss of biodiversity (Tilman et al., 2011; Stevenson et al., 2013; Hertel et al., 2012; Tscharntke et al., 2012; Ellis et al., 2013; Foley et al., 2011; Lambin et al., 2001; Angelsen and Kaimowitz, 2001; and Chomitz et al., 2007).

Unsustainable practices of food production are no longer an option. Intensive industrial food systems pollute soils, water and air, and contribute to climate change. They impoverish millions of small-scale food producers, creating increasingly bigger waves of poverty, hunger and migration. Likewise, traditional farming based on area expansion, cultivation on fragile areas, and non-replenishment of soil nutrient is also harmful to the environment in the long run. Finally, unhealthy foods and diets cause obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, affecting 2 billion people and serious pandemics are likely to occur in the near future. The use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and antimicrobials can have enormous consequences on the health of humans and other living organisms.

Therefore, the Africa Green Revolution should promote production systems that address the “trilemma” of high agricultural productivity-environment and biodiversity conservation-human health maintenance. Africa development process is at a crossroads and has the opportunity to embrace a different direction. Food systems that produce enough and healthy food, create vibrant communities and fair economies, reduce climate change and sustain the planet are possible. There is a need to shift thinking and actions towards promoting agricultural practices that maintain and enhance ecosystem services and natural resources while producing sufficient and nutritious food.

There is an existing wealth of untapped research and production models, that have often been marginalized or ignored[2]:

·More resilient and sustainable models of food production exist. They have evolved and adapted for millennia in traditional forms of agriculture and are more relevant than ever as viable tools in alleviating hunger and unemployment worldwide. They can be combined with the latest science on sustainable forms of production.

·Field research has demonstrated that at least double-digit increases in production can be obtained in developing countries without using chemical inputs like synthetic fertilizer and pesticides.

·The high productivity of small farms in terms of output per unit of area has been demonstrated, and sustainability-enhancing practices provide evidence of the potential to increase production and, at the same time, preserve the environment and cooling the planet.

·State of the art research on soil biology and the beneficial effects of soils rich in micro-organisms presents a significant and still untapped potential for resilient production systems.

2.4.1 The Benefits of Agroecology[edit | edit source]

Sustainable agriculture, ecological agriculture, agroecology are used intermittently according to the context but all refer to agriculture that centres on food production that makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging these resources. Further, these terms reflect i) the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems; ii) a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences; iii) linking ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities. Ecological agriculture has so far been practised in various agroecological zones of Africa. It is based on methods, techniques and strategies that preserve and improve the environment ;can show higher yields per unit of agricultural land; strengthens farmers’ positions in relation to market and society, thereby reducing poverty among small-scale farmers who comprise half of the global population; and is better suited to feeding the world’s hungry, 50 percent of whom are themselves small-scale farmers; has the potential to increase food production towards a level which can feed future generations.

What is poorly understood is that talking about ecological agriculture means talking about a myriad of highly diverse agricultural systems developed over millennia in greatly varied ecosystems, ranging from the most remote, isolated, inaccessible places of the planet to densely populated urban areas. They include the infinite diversity of state-of-the-art agricultures being invented and re-invented by farmers and organizations that are constantly innovating. Contrary to the common perception, ecological agriculture is the most advanced and sophisticated human endeavour, able to add the latest science to its wealth of traditional knowledge, adapting it to both time and space. When practised in enabling environments, it makes efficient use of resources while reducing risks and pollutions.

Agroecology shares much in common with other approaches to sustainable farming. Agroecology is farming that “centres on food production that makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging these resources.” Farming thrives when it works with local ecosystems, for example, improving soil and plant quality through available biomass and biodiversity, rather than battling nature with chemical inputs. Agroecological farmers seek to improve food yields for balanced nutrition, strengthen fair markets for their produce, enhance healthy ecosystems, and build on ancestral knowledge and customs.

Promoters of agroecology strive to nurture a healthy landscape in which to grow the world’s food and fibre. They are guided by an ethos of bio and cultural diversity featuring small farmer-centred applied research and policies that protect their livelihoods. Worldwide, scientists, grassroots organizations, NGOs, consumers, universities, and public agencies are working with farmers to construct sustainable and nutritious food systems based in agroecology.

There are now unprecedented opportunities to advance agroecology globally. Too frequently, the commercial food system has negative impacts on people’s health, the environment, and the well-being of family farmers. Agroecology is recognized as both a mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change. Consumers are increasingly demanding healthier food and a closer connection to food producers. Social movements around the globe – many with significant leadership by women's and indigenous organizations – are coalescing in campaigns for a healthy food system built on an environmental and human rights ethos. The demand for agroecology is rising.

2.4.2 Synecoculture[edit | edit source]

A novel farming method, namely synecological farming (synecoculture in short), based on theory and observation of synecology has been proposed as total optimization of productivity, product quality, environmental load and adaptation capacity to climate change. Synecoculture is designed on a variety of environmental responses within ecological optimum in high-density mixed polyculture where various edible species were intentionally introduced. The whole methodology can be considered as anthropogenic augmentation of ecosystem functioning that promotes dynamic biodiversity productivity relationship prevalent in natural ecosystems.

In this Advocacy, we argue that the adoption of this new farming method far-reaching in addressing the trilemma of productivity-environment conservation-human health and contribute to the eradication of poverty and hunger and Africa. The next sections examine discuss how Synecoculture can be the panacea for achieving the African Green Revolution and consequently the sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030, and the aspiration of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

[1] For more details see: Huisman et al. (2016), African Food Supply in Perspective. PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague.

[2] For further reading see: A Viable Food Future, Part I&II, 2016, published by the Development Fund/Utviklingsfondet, Norway,

3. Synecoculture: Towards a Sustainable Development in Africa[edit | edit source]

Synecological farming, or Synecoculture in short, is a novel method of small-scale market gardening for the production of vegetables, fruits and staples. It is based on the high-density mixed association of edible plants without the application of tillage, fertilizer, and chemicals (Funabashi 2016a; Funabashi 2016b; Funabashi 2018a). Synecoculture introduces a high crop diversity (about 200 species, 700 varieties in 1000㎡) for year-round sustainable harvests. The system was shown to strengthen food security, products diversity, nutrition profile, soil quality, water and material efficiency, climate adaptation and field biodiversity. In a pilot experiment in Burkina Faso, Synecoculture productivity amounted to 40-150 times the state-provided speculation of conventional market gardening, and more than 10 times productivity and resource efficiency than other agroecological methods tested at the same site. Linear extrapolation of the result shows a strategic propagation of Synecoculture could lift the entire population of Burkina Faso above the poverty threshold, and substantial achievement of Aichi biodiversity targets and SDGs are expected especially for sub-Saharan African countries.

3-1 Solution to resource-deprived African smallholders living in a degraded environment[edit | edit source]

We address a challenge that overcomes the fundamental trade-off between productivity and biodiversity in the history of agriculture: Synecoculture project, that aims to create an augmented ecosystem mainstreaming biodiversity, with a synergy between productivity and biodiversity based on the ecology of the community (traditionally termed as synecology) applied to agricultural production.

Synecoculture seeks for a fundamental transformation of agriculture to provide solution against the biodiversity loss and associated ecosystem functions and services that are mainly triggered by conventional agricultural practices. It is not only the problematics of large-scale monoculture systems in developed countries but resource-depleted small-holding farming, especially in developing countries. While about 70% of the world food is produced on 80% of arable land by family-owned smallholders that accounts for 1/3 to half of the world population, this mode of production in total is a significant source of the land degradation and consequent biodiversity loss in agricultural sectors. Nearly 70% of the arid arable land is in the desertification process by an inappropriate practice of local smallholders. The situation is particularly severe in sub-Saharan African countries, especially in the Sahel region.

Among Sahelian countries, Burkina Faso is an extreme example of poverty, desertification and consequent insecurity caused by inappropriate agricultural practice such as land conversion to farmland and overgrazing. Because the political situation is unstable, rural development such as the construction of roads and technological supports on farming are left behind. Water resource is scarce while some regions in rainy season suffer from flooding by the lack of soil. Malnutrition and food security is a prevalent problem in the entire nation.

Synecoculture was designed as a total solution of the context analysis: The augmentation of biodiversity in the plot (about 200 edible species/ 1000㎡ under coexistence of naturally occurring species), which is beyond a natural preservation state. The introduction of such a high level of crop diversity aims to substantially recover lost ecosystem functions and eventually reverse the regime shift in degraded land. The crop diversity is designed to drastically enrich food diversity on the local production for local consumption basis, and its association including the interaction with fauna is expected to enhance micronutrient profile in various products. The low-input (no tillage, no fertilizer, no chemicals) and light manual labour with high yield and cost-effectiveness form a fundamental action strategy to reestablish natural material cycles under weak infrastructure conditions in Burkina Faso and other Sahelian countries. In the next sections, we will overview evidence from Synecoculture pilot projects in Japan and Burkina Faso.

3-2 Results of pilot projects in Japan and Burkina Faso[edit | edit source]

We have introduced about 200 edible plant species which accounts for 700 varieties on 1000㎡ scale in Japan from 2010, and 150 species including 40 staples in 500 ㎡ in Burkina Faso from 2015 under the controlled coexistence with naturally occurring species. We refrained the use of tillage and chemicals in order to preserve soil and above-ground ecosystems, nor fertilizer to prevent water pollution and pest outbreak. The high density mixed polyculture systems went through a self-organization process based on the spontaneous growth of plant community under the guidance of human by thinning harvest to maintain the coexistence of various species.

3-2-1 Economic impact

In Japan, 2 to 4-fold productivity was attained in 1000㎡ compared to conventional market gardening of all scales. We used no machinery but light manual labour that was accessible to the ageing population. The Synecoculture produce was distributed to more than 6000 consumers during 2010-2016 and received 4000 accesses/day to the pilot farm website. In Burkina Faso, an initial pilot farm of 500㎡ realized 40 to 150-fold productivity in the arid tropic region and distributed to 1500 consumers in 2015-2016. The profitability reached 6,084,782 CFAF/yr/500㎡ as the only profitable method among other 5 agroecological methods simultaneously tested on site. This income level corresponds to 20 times the yearly GNI per capita (2015 World Bank estimate) and 50 times of the absolute monetary poverty threshold in the capital (2014 INSD estimate). Calculations have also shown that if 1% of the population of Burkina Faso implements Synecoculture in 7000 ha of farmland with sufficient market access, the country would be able to totally eradicate poverty (Tindano and Funabashi 2016).

Both projects in Japan and Burkina Faso did not receive public funding or other subsidies and expanding its scale at their own expense. These pilot projects were initiated and performed under autonomous activities of Sakura Nature School (corporation) in Japan and AFIDRA (NGO) in Burkina Faso, with a research initiative of Sony CSL. The development of each farm was conducted by the market-based revenue with local production for local consumption basis. The total cost effectiveness in Burkina Faso recorded 5.09 (5 times more profit than overall investment) from the very first year, which is 10 times more than other tested methods.

3-2-2 Food security and nutrition[edit | edit source]

Synecoculture pilot farms could provide a high variety of market gardening products throughout the year with the diversity comparable to regional scale, providing a bold basis of food security with local production and local consumption. The produce showed a higher concentration of minerals and secondary metabolite which considerably overlapped with pharmacological compounds, especially phytochemicals that support long-term health protective effect.

3-2-3 Water cycle[edit | edit source]

The practice completely prevented water pollution without the application of tillage, fertilizer, and chemicals. Experiments in Japan depended solely on rainwater except for the nursing stage of seedlings. The productivity was not affected by the variance in precipitation, meaning the increase of water buffering capacity. During the 2nd year of an experiment in Burkina Faso, water efficiency as measured by productivity divided by water cost rose to 87.08 in the rainy season and 34.97 in the dry season, compared to the mean of other irrigation-based methods 2.77 (Tindano and Funabashi 2017).

3-2-4 Environmental construction and adaptation to climate change through the human augmentation of ecosystems[edit | edit source]

Field and surrounding environments augmented biodiversity beyond a natural preservation state. Visual observation with the use of digital camera and ICT recorded more than 1000 plant and insect species in Japan, including IUCN red data list species in a plot. Abandoned arid land in Burkina Faso reestablished the vegetation to a most mature stage of primary succession in terms of species composition. Analysis of productivity in response to meteorological parameters in Japan revealed that the product diversity was positively correlated with the variance of temperature and sunlight duration, and remained insignificant with the change in precipitation. These dynamics mean that the community productivity of introduced species is reacting positively to climate volatility that is expected to increase in the future climate change. In Burkina Faso, we observed drastic recovery from the regime shift (desertification) that strengthened regulation services against extreme climate.

3-3 Strategies for institutional synergies[edit | edit source]

In order to fully utilize the capacity of Synecocultre for sustainable development in African countries, efficient and prompt institutional supports are necessary. The experiment in Burkina Faso showed prominent results in arid tropics and has led to launching a research and training center of Synecoculture (CARFS; Centre Africain de Recherche et de Formation en Synécoculture. Website: ) with the support of the government. The CARFS together with Sony CSL have also organized a series of international conferences gathering multiple stakeholders in the Sahel (Tindano and Funabashi 2016; Tindano and Funabashi 2017; Tindano and Funabashi 2018; Messaoudi et al. 2018) with the support of UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus program (CSDC, website: ).

Through the discussion with local and national authorities and stakeholders during the conferences, we have identified key elements for institutional synergies: Accessibility to plant genetic resources is a primary factor of implementation; funding is required for larger scale practice, especially for training opportunities; community building should be reinforced to avoid security risks widely prevalent in the Sahel; institutional network should be employed for large-scale strategic propagation of Synecoculture, for the achievement of Aichi biodiversity targets and SDGs. Here we review possible roles of the institution to promote the implementation of Synecoculture in African scale.

3-3-1 Support of enabling conditions[edit | edit source]

Human education is the primary condition for the realization of the novel method. Since the practice does not conform to traditional monoculture methods, the change of mindset from conventional practices to the concept of the total yield at a plant community level and the system of comprehensive biodiversity response need to be understood by experience for effective management.

Access to commercial and local plant genetic resources and water resources is the fundamental basis for the logistics. The system requires a highly diverse portfolio of crop seeds and seedlings, preferably locally adapted variety and underutilized species. Market access should be promoted and possibly guaranteed by local authorities with a certification system. In terms of the interaction with the surrounding environment, conventional monoculture systems applying fertilizer and chemicals should be set apart to avoid pollution. The animal fence is needed if there exist free-range grazing and large animals in the neighbor.

3-3-2 Current external connections[edit | edit source]

The Synecoculture is registered as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility programs of Sony corporation for the value of biodiversity offset and the relevance to the information industry. The management system of Synecoculture with the use of information and communication technologies are under development as open-source software, which has a broad application not only in agriculture but in other sectors of primary industries where human activity is in direct contact with natural ecosystems.

In collaboration with the Center of Innovation Science and Technology based Radical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (COI STREAM) and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), evidence on regulation services in the water cycle are being studied in view of assessing the global impact of biodiversity mainstreaming in smallholding agriculture (Funabashi 2018b).

The results in Burkina Faso have led to receiving support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Hydrolytic Planning (MAAH) in Burkina Faso for the activities of CARFS. The results of the 1st African Forum on Synecoculture were brought to the constitutional commission and contributed to implementing the articles on the right to environment and access to sustainable agriculture resources in the new constitution of Burkina Faso. The creation of a guideline of Synecoculture for school learning materials is also in progress at the level of ECOWAS decree on agricultural education (Projet de décret portant organisation et fonctionnement des écoles de formation technique agricole dans l'espace CÉDÉAO).

The overall activity is supported by the UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus program as a prominent example of open-source citizen science that has the potential to develop worldwide with transdisciplinary capacity building through north-south-south cooperation.

3-3-3 Inclusive development opportunities[edit | edit source]

There exist various sustainable development initiatives compatible with the introduction of Synecoculture. The Land Policy Initiative (LPI) sets forth a pan-African framework and guidelines to properly manage the land use and eradicate poverty towards a sustainable path of development (LPI 2010). With respect to the critical land issues in Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit that define the fundamental requirement for LPI, Synecoculture has the potential to create multiple synergies through community-based introduction: Participation of communities in sustainable management, protection and recovery of natural resources is highly achievable through Synecoculture practice, which would raise importance for establishing legal frameworks for land management, access to land resources and land ownership (especially by women) and for the protection of tenants as a bottom-up initiative. Through the promotion of sustainable land-use planning and management with Synecoculture, human settlement planning and management in disaster-prone areas are particularly expected to increase its robustness and resilience as shown by the pilot experiment in Burkina Faso. Since Synecoculture does not rely on external material inputs but local plants and recovery of land resources, the expansion of Synecoculture fields require high-level planning and management through the active involvement and participation of local communities, which will systematically promote an integrated approach. High productivity and augmentation of biodiversity through Synecoculture production can realize sustainable agriculture in the context of rural development of smallholders, where information and education on land use, planning, conservation and rehabilitation mechanisms are inadequate and environmental trade-off becomes crucial with conventional methods.

Deforestation by over-exploitation of monoculture plantation is an urgent problem to tackle in many African countries. Especially cash crops such as cacao, coffee, oil palm are cultivated in large surface and require effective countermeasures to prevent soil erosion and biodiversity loss. While combination with traditional agroforestry approach is limited in species composition and association, Synecoculture holds a high potential of on-site tailoring to local requirements through the interactive exploration process of newly introducible edible species. Such adaptive diversification process through the implementation of Synecoculture actively promotes the recognition of the role of indigenous people and communities through their knowledge, as issued in Agenda 21. It can also adapt to various topography such as hedge, trellis and sloped surface to implement multiple mechanisms for soil protection.

Government-led initiatives such as inclusive development of ecovillage in the context of SDGs is a promising example to start large-scale propagation of Synecoculture (e.g. UNDP 2018). In promoting the community building, various synergies with other sectors and technologies should be gathered. Especially newly emerging financial technologies such as e-voucher have a kick-starting potential to improve access to finance, promote local entrepreneurship by the creation of value chains in local markets and strengthen local governance in rural environments (e.g. FAO 2015; IRENA 2018).

3-3-4 Development of support tools[edit | edit source]

The most considerable burden for Synecoculture implementation is the information cost required to manage the mega-diversity of ecological augmentation processes. Together with institutional supports, we need to develop information and communication technologies (ICT) for the effective transmission of the practical knowledge on farming and utilization of products, and the on-site management of overwhelming biodiversity that goes beyond a natural state of ecosystems and exceeds human intellectual capacity. Smart ICT is also crucial for institutional synergies working among multi-stakeholders.

The UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus program gathers 131 universities worldwide and expanding the network in order to develop ICT supports for the realization of decentralized society for mutual wellbeing with special attention to the UN Agenda for 2030 such as SDGs (CSDC 2019). The basic framework is the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) working on smart contracts as algorithms embedded in the system where individual members own and share various databases that will collectively serve for public decision-making. Supported by the Majority Judgement theory (Balinski and Laraki 2010) and the 2nd internet revolution, this kind of decentralized control avoids the burden of centralized society such as dictatorship and any risk of non-ethical use of personal data by bringing “trust in algorithms”.

Synecoculture contributes to the construction of Decentralized application Data (DaD) through the development of World-wide Wellbeing Decentralized application (WW Dapp) and constitution of a smart individual roadmap (CSDC 2019). Each practice can be scaled-out to a finer functioning of Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) in the society by the provision of a DaD dividend as a token of contribution to the elaboration of smart roadmaps for mutual wellbeing and the release of socially/ecologically added value with scientific assessments. Essential frameworks have been developed with open-source principle and await systematic approach towards comprehensive development and social implementation (Funabashi 2017a; Funabashi 2017b; Funabashi et al. 2017).

The matured stage of ICT implementation starting with Synecoculture will drastically change the social organization of African countries that positively impact rural economic development, biodiversity, health and wellbeing. With the vast added value released with the establishment of the Decentralized Autonomous Organization, science is seen to play a more significant role in society, as its relationship with the management of the real world and industries become increasingly interactive and real-time. In addition to the three independent powers that constitute the power of the state, namely, legislative, executive, and judiciary; science, which carries out measurement and evaluation of laws based on the decentralized databases of multiple scales, will play the role of a “fourth independent power” that will serve as the guardian of sustainability, in order for the new decentralized social systems to implement effective decisions pertaining to sustainability. It is no more an extension of business as usual constrained under the inertia of globalization, but a whole new alternative that is scalable, self-adaptive and sustainable in the face of the climate change and population growth in this century. Lack of resources and under-development are not limiting factors but novel opportunities in the Synecoculture paradigm, which will auger the establishment of Africa’s own development pathway for Agenda 2063 and set the world standard for the next generations.

4. Implementation plan and budget[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

(Funabashi 2016a) Funabashi, M. (Eds) Synecoculture manual 2016 version (English Version). Research and education material of UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus, e-laboratory: Open Systems Exploration for Ecosystems Leveraging, No. 2 (2016).

(Funabashi 2016b) Funabashi, M. Synecological farming: Theoretical foundation on biodiversity responses of plant communities. Plant Biotechnol. 32, 1–22 (2016).

(Funabashi 2018a) Funabashi, M. Human augmentation of ecosystems: objectives for food production and science by 2045. npj Science of Food (2018) 2:16 ; doi:10.1038/s41538-018-0026-4

(Tindano and Funabashi 2016) André Tindano and Masatoshi Funabashi, editor « Proceedings of the 1st African Forum on Synecoculture » (English Version). Research and Education material of UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus, e-laboratory: Open Systems Exploration for Ecosystems Leveraging, No.5.

(Tindano and Funabashi 2017) André Tindano and Masatoshi Funabashi, editor « Proceedings of the 2nd African Forum on Synecoculture » (English Version). Research and Education material of UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus, e-laboratory: Open Systems Exploration for Ecosystems Leveraging, No.7.

(Tindano and Funabashi 2018) André Tindano and Masatoshi Funabashi, editor « Proceedings of the 3rd African Forum on Synecoculture » (English Version). Research and Education material of UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus, e-laboratory: Open Systems Exploration for Ecosystems Leveraging, No. 10.

(Messaoudi et al. 2018) Elee Messaoudi, André Tindano et Masatoshi Funabashi « Actes du 4e Forum African sur la Synécoculture » Matériel éducatif et de recherche du Complex Systems Digital Campus, programme UniTwin de l’UNESCO, laboratoire en ligne : Exploration en systèmes ouverts pour l'effet de levier écosystémique, No. 11.

(Funabashi 2018b) Funabashi, M. Water and Ecosystem Cycles Mediated by Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In Genetic Diversity in Plants. DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.79781

(LPI 2010) Framework and Guideline on Land Policy in Africa. AUC-ECA-AfDB Consortium, 2010

(UNDP 2018) Stratégie nationale de création des éco-villages 2018-2027. UNDP (2018)

(FAO 2015) FAO MDG1c Sub-programme (2015)

(IRENA 2018) Rural Banking Digitalization and Business Models in Mozambique (Good practice example 3.1.1) p.121 in Sustainable Rural Bioenergy Solutions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Collection of Good Practices. IRENA (2018)

(CSDC 2019) CS-DC UNESCO UniTwin Worldwide Wellbeing DAO introducing its DAICO : the DaD (Decentralized application Data) Token -An introduction for Ethereum Investors.

(Balinski and Laraki 2010) Balinski M. and Laraki R. Majority Judgment Measuring, Ranking, and Electing. The MIT Press (2010)

(Funabashi 2017a) Funabashi, M. Citizen Science and Topology of Mind: Complexity, Computation and Criticality in Data-Driven Exploration of Open Complex Systems. Entropy 2017, 19, 181.

(Funabashi 2017b) Funabashi, Masatoshi “Open Systems Exploration: An Example with Ecosystems Management” First Complex Systems Digital Campus World E-Conference 2015, Springer Proceedings in Complexity, 2017, Pages 223-243

(Funabashi et al. 2017) Funabashi, Masatoshi (et al.) “Foundation of CS-DC e-Laboratory: Open Systems Exploration for Ecosystems Leveraging” First Complex Systems Digital Campus World E-Conference 2015, Springer Proceedings in Complexity, 2017, Pages 351-374