Eco-agriculture is derived from two words, economic and ecological agriculture. The concept is to work with farmers in rural areas to integrate biodiversity and their farming practices to make for sustainable, economical agriculture that’s both economical and practical for their agricultural landscapes but also host wild biodiversity of many types, with neutral or even positive effects on agricultural production and livelihoods.
Eco-agriculture is two things; a conservation strategy and a rural development strategy. The realization that agricultural development at the cost of landscapes’ natural biodiversity is leading to an overall loss for humans, depleting resources faster and not giving back to the land, has made scientists conclude that this is the way forward. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have some emphasis on hunger, poverty, water and sanitation, together with environmental sustainability. The eight goals suggested by the United Nations in 2000 to be accomplished by 2015, cannot be realized without the implementation of eco-agricultural practices.
Of the millions of people who do not have access to sufficient food, a big number are smallholder farmers while the rest are rural landless and those principally dependent on rangelands, forests, and fisheries. Without better practices, these groups will not be able to reduce hunger and poverty nor improve the livelihoods of their families.
The idea behind Eco-agriculture is to create landscapes with enhanced biodiversity conservation, increased food production and improved rural livelihoods. Eco-agriculture works on the premise that the rural farmers’ knowledge amassed over years and years of working with their crops and terrains is immeasurable and can be used to create sustainable systems that would work with the ecological lay of the land to save the predominant species in the region and make them self-sufficient at the same time.
Eco-agriculture focuses on synergies between conservation, agricultural production, and rural livelihoods. Emphasis on collaboration between stakeholders is also a crucial point because these landscapes cannot be maintained without a bigger view of the task at hand, so the land managers of the particular landscape need to come together collaboratively to work towards improving their ecosystems.
It is impossible to do this only with a few individual farmers, the landscapes scope can only be understood at a larger level, this would also help understand wildlife population dynamics and watershed functions at this scale. Eco-agriculture believes that conducting analyses over longer temporal scales than is commonly done will yield better results.
This is the way forward for farmers in Africa, with our resources getting depleted at an alarming rate we must think in a different way. Clearing ecosystems for agricultural development is part of the problem. These collaborative innovative practices that are community-led, that focus on the farmers and their particular landscapes while also conserving the ecosystems and protecting their biodiverse richness are the new way for Africa.