The Library for Food Sovereignty (LFS) initiative is a multi-stakeholder effort to centralize farmer innovations and agricultural experimentations going on around the world. Inspired by the innovative solutions of smallholders in the Global South, the LFS aims at creating a digital space for communities to exchange, showcase, and build upon the knowledge of the world’s farmers. Driven and defined by the community, LFS is a meeting point for agroecology movements that believe in the untapped potential of grassroots knowledge.
From September 19-22, 2016, 45 delegates from seven countries—including nearly 20 Indigenous farmers—met in the rural village of Kasejjere, Uganda, to discuss the values, information pathways, technology, and scope of this evolving community resource. The meeting took place on a hillside surrounded by communities actively experimenting and taking charge of their own future. What emerged was a demonstrated willingness to collaborate with each other and with AGC in supporting an initial pilot of the Library.
Smallholder farmers are some of the most innovative and resourceful people on the planet. Forced to work in conditions of constant environmental, economic, and social change, they still manage to produce 70% of the world’s food. Indigenous knowledge, the backbone of agroecology, is passed down generationally from farmer to farmer and adapted to meet new conditions. Innovations—that is, locally-initiated new or improved ways of doing things (often inspired or reshaped from Indigenous knowledge)—have been at work since time immemorial. Sadly, the knowledge of the grassroots is, and has been historically, shut out as top-down development and research agendas funnel transfer technologies into smallholder communities. It’s no surprise that these technologies seldom have any long-term success: they rarely meet the needs and realities of farmers and are often neglected by them entirely. But when farmers develop their own culturally-appropriate and site-specific solutions, imagined and refined from a deep-rooted understanding of the land, they ignite with a sense of ownership and autonomy and it is then that transformative change is finally possible.
The LFS initiative is a community that is passionate about harnessing the knowledge of smallholders and creating a participatory space for stimulating and sharing the innovations and experimentations going on around the globe. Using a variety of technologies and media that are accessible and appropriate for smallholders, we work alongside farmer innovators and farmer-led networks to tap into the grassroots knowledge systems at play and share them with the world.
The LFS initiative is as much about inspiring as it is about informing. Agriculture is a complex and multidimensional system. Farmers don’t just face technical or informational challenges; in fact they more commonly face socio-cultural and economic threats to their livelihood. LFS therefore equally prioritizes both farmers’ techniques and farmers’ stories because there is no environmental justice without social justice. We work using participatory documentation approaches—such as Participatory Video and Farmer-Led Documentation—ensuring communities can tell their own stories in their own words. We’ve learned it’s not enough to document and provide access to innovations though; which is why we work with partners to develop participatory agendas around them so smallholder knowledge can be appropriately blended with modern science—something the agroecology movement calls for.
The LFS is an open, centralizing, and interoperable platform that simultaneously inspires, connects, and leverages the knowledge of the grassroots. Using technologies as a tool, we work to unite a global community of innovators and their allies in attempt to bring farmers back to the forefront of agriculture. LFS is not only farmer centric it is farmer driven. Farmers are involved at all levels of this initiative from technology design to governance: they are building and defining the LFS, creating the world’s first smallholder-owned digital space. Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) play an increasingly important role in the work of farmers. Application of ICTs in agriculture and rural development is now seen as one of the best ways to get young people into the sector and help meet market demands; and yet farmers play no part in designing these systems. LFS provides an opportunity for farmers to lead ICTs in ways that are relevant to their livelihoods, cultures, environments, and social conditions.
We believe that changing our food system from one that is industrial to one controlled by farmers starts with igniting the wealth of knowledge alive in the world’s smallholders. Please join us in advancing and inspiring a culture of innovation driven by farmers.