The Library for Food Sovereignty
By Freya Yost – Director of Information Services
For the past 5 years, A Growing Culture (AGC) has been developing an online library that collects farmer-led innovations and techniques from around the world. Many of you have shared success stories, debated methods, and confronted the leading challenges that face our food system today. The library now includes over 150 technical essays, a collection of farmer profiles, interviews and opinion pieces from a large and diverse group of agrarians. This growing collection, along with the feedback and enthusiasm we’ve received from the community, has led us to inquire further into ways we can improve intractability.
AGC has been studying the information needs and trends of farmers and the traditional avenues of information dissemination and access. We learned that much of academic research does not reach farmers. While data-driven research is valuable for government, policy makers, and industrial farmers, it doesn’t always meet the needs of small-scale farmers and is often neglected by them entirely. In fact, policies and techniques derived from research communities alone are not successful, as the beneficiaries—the farmers—often don’t practice them. We also learned something even more important: most farmers conduct their own research and develop innovative methods as a result of that research. Farmer-led research has proven to be incredibly effective and empowering—especially for small-scale farming businesses. In an iPES report the New Science of Sustainable Food Systems (2015) the author writes,
“Leaving out social actors in the stages of framing, conducting and analyzing research means leaving un-tapped the potential of the knowledge they possess; and it means limiting the transformative potential of that research.”
In an evolving and increasingly digital world, AGC sees an opportunity for a collective and interactive library that encourages farmer-led information exchange. Using sophisticated digital technologies, AGC is planning a revamped library service that restores agricultural research back into the hands of the world’s farmers. The Library for Food Sovereignty will provide a platform for hosting, organizing, storing, and sharing knowledge, techniques, moving image, photos, data, slideshows and more. AGC is currently in the process of partnering with like-minded organizations to solicit content from their own networks of farming communities. These organizations will be “information hubs” and will help document and represent the innovations of the farmers they work with. Together with our partners, we will form a library steering committee that ensures the collection continues to serve farmers and the movements on the ground. The library and AGC mission are to serve small and medium sized farmers, encouraging an ecological practice of agriculture. We stand behind a free and open library for all communities regardless of race, gender, farming type, or jurisdictional borders.
It has been an honor to work with some of the finest agrarians from around the world. Small-scale farmers produce 50-70% of the world’s food, make up 85% of farms, and represent 70% of the hungry and malnourished. The hard work, innovative practices, and resilience we have seen have been incredibly inspiring. AGC believes that harnessing these innovations—and providing access to them through the digital library—is key to encouraging farmer autonomy, independence, and amplifying the voices of the underrepresented.