Strength in Numbers

New Field Foundation promotes a bottom-up approach to Pan-African advocacy

Donors and implements always ask how to scale up, but really, we should be looking at how to scale across.

Sarah Hobson, New Field Foundation

New Field Foundation (New Field) began investing in Africa by funding community-centered, women-led initiatives. The foundation quickly realized two things. First, New Field observed that rural women farmers reach out to other women and women-driven associations when they need help to build their capacity, production, and processing. Second, New Field learned how community projects are part of a larger systemic framework, that can either stifle or create the space for women to reach their potential and for change to happen. These two notions influenced New Field’s funding strategy to intentionally support locally-driven, regional movements that foster connection and collaboration, and influence agriculture policies that impact African women.

Rural women make essential contributions to agriculture and food security across Africa. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), women’s participation in the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa is the highest participation rate in the world. New Field’s approach recognizes the key role that rural African women have in producing and processing the continent’s food, along with the breadth of knowledge they have about soil, water, seed, and climate. New Field sees women – not just women in agriculture but women more broadly – as creative problem solvers who are too often left out of the large-scale planning and exchange of ideas and solutions. This drove New Field to invest in rural African women who, despite limited rights and resources, are organizing to change their situation.

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Partnership for Food Sovereignty

We are the Solution!

We Are the Solution! is linked to the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). New Field Foundation has been funding AFSA since 2013. AFSA, based in Ethiopia, is a Pan-African platform comprising about 40 national networks and farmer organizations from 17 countries. The core purpose of AFSA is to leverage a collective voice to influence policies across Africa and to promote African solutions for food sovereignty in three focus areas: seed, land, and agro-ecology. ASFA also provides a forum for analyzing and discussing issues and actions to shape national and Pan-African policies. In 2015, AFSA demanded the inclusion of food sovereignty — the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods — to be included in the G7 meeting agenda. It also presented its Statement on Agroecology to the FAO Africa Regional Meeting in Dakar in November 2015.