The two years between the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the civil unrest in July 2021, and the extreme floods in 2022 were unprecedented in terms of intersecting crises.
On 5 March 2020 the first person in South Africa tested positive for COVID-19. On 26 March, with little warning, a hard lockdown was imposed as part of a national State of Disaster in response to the pandemic. In KwaZulu-Natal the pandemic ushered in a series of interlaced, deeply affecting and traumatic events that continue to weigh heavily on our society.
“These experiences, arriving one on top of the other, provide a window into the stark potential future we face should we not respond creatively and urgently to the need for systemic change,” said Vanessa Black, Biowatch Advocacy, Research and Policy Co-ordinator. “With the unfolding climate and biodiversity crises, economic and political turbulence, and strengthening corporate power, stress in our food and social systems will continue. The need for resilience within farming communities and the food system is even greater.”
Resilience built through agroecology
During this challenging COVID-19 pandemic period communication between Biowatch and the agroecology farmers they support suggested that, on the whole, the farmers were coping. To confirm this anecdotal evidence, Biowatch commissioned a survey of 24 farmers, including long-standing and recent agroecology adopters, in nine areas in different parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Between April and June 2022, visits and conversations surfaced how the farmers perceived the multiple intersecting crises the province had experienced, and the ways in which agroecology had supported and built their resilience to these.
“Biowatch is often challenged to prove that agroecology works,” said Vanessa. “As the stories of resilience in this new book confirm, agroecology not only enables farmers to improve household food security and nutrition, but also enables many other benefits despite the hardships the farmers experience.”
Farmers speak out about living and thriving in troubled times: 2020–2022
The farmers’ voices and stories offered in Biowatch’s new book Stories of Resilience Built Through Agroecology provide insight into the multiple dimensions in which agroecology benefits rural communities and builds resilience in the face of intersecting climate, biodiversity, water and food crises and the social and political upheavals that loom ahead of us locally, regionally and globally.