Farmers are some of the most innovative people on the planet. Forced to adapt to changing agricultural systems, transnational forces, and climate, farmers develop creative and progressive techniques that work with nature, not against it. We’ve seen countless examples around the globe: a Thai monk concocts insect repellent using plants that are naturally resistant to pests, a Kenyan woman determines the sex of an egg by measuring the shape of its curve, a Indian couple purchased an abandoned pebble mine and built soil rich enough to begin growing vegetables within the first year, a Vietnamese hog farmer maintains pig houses that don’t smell.
Information exchange and access—especially farmer-to-farmer—is key to generating new ideas and driving these innovations. Agroecology is based on biological principles rather than exact formulas. Open knowledge and collective learning bring new perspectives to these principles and spawn unique, site-specific solutions.
Farmer-to-farmer exchange has been at work for centuries. Families pass techniques down through generations. Communities disseminate information to neighbors—experts even believe the diffusion of ideas was a driving factor behind the birth of agriculture on a global scale. Today, farmer-to-farmer exchange is often a solution to circumventing pressures of market economy. Other times it is the only way to safeguard biodiversity. Ultimately, it is an essential element of an ecologically sound, socially just, and prosperous food system.
Where A Growing Culture Fits In
A sovereign food system requires leveraging local innovations and supporting free, open, and appropriate channels for sharing between smallholders and their allies. We work to harness and document local and traditional knowledge through participatory and farmer-centric approaches. By prioritizing farmer-led initiatives in realms of research, development, and locally-led change, we reinforce farming communities as engaged problem solvers and knowledge managers, not passive recipients.
Using appropriate analog and digital technologies to advance on-the-ground movements and reinforce the potential of smallholder knowledge, we support farmer-led documentation projects on four continents. The Library for Food Sovereignty knowledge base preserves and makes accessible this collection of information and innovations.