The bright green of the rice fields is what you notice first. The fields are lush, and the rice is nearly ready to be harvested. A group of women stand proudly in their fields and explain that 12 varieties of rice are grown here. In Madina Sara, their community in Guinea-Bissau, the conversation flows between men and women amid explanations of how this community created a seed bank to conserve seeds from one harvest to the next, and how they created a food reserve on which families can draw in times of scarcity. Around each house is a surprisingly diverse vegetable garden, and the majestic mango trees are all in flower. This idyllic description seems too good to be true, but that’s life in Madina Sara.
Our counterpart Tiniguena has been accompanying Madina Sara for a number of years and is here as part of a new joint initiative: Scaling Up Gender Equality through Women-Led Agroecology in West Africa. This five-year project, in the amount of nearly $5.6 million, aims to increase the power of rural women throughadvocacy and the promotion of agroecological food systems. The project impacts around 25,000 people, mainly women, in Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and Togo.
Unlike farming practices that promote dependence on foreign seeds and on harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides, agroecology cultivates independence. It taps into local knowledge and bolsters communities’ seed heritage. It also boosts production capacity for organic inputs rather than relying on expensive chemical inputs. The approach recognizes the crucial role that women play in food systems and works to remove barriers to accessing land and decision-making spaces.
The story of Madina Sara and the other articles in this Bulletin show what we hope to achieve in working among equals with our counterparts in West Africa. We are grateful to our community of donors who make this work possible.