Burundi coffee and agroecology at HAFL
28.06.2023 Dreamy buzzword or practical solution? At the annual event of the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute, experts discussed sustainability in low- and middle-income countries and the potential of agroecology. They also experienced the transdisciplinary approach in a playful way.
Everyone sat at the same table: Kaneza, a coffee farmer; a researcher; the government agency for the development of the coffee sector in Burundi; a coffee importer; a coffee buyer; NGOs; and representatives from the fields of microfinance and certification. Then the big debate started: the eponymous game "The Big Debate" revolved around the question of whether agroecology is the right approach for sustainable coffee in Burundi. BFH-HAFL scientific collaborator Ingrid Fromm and assistant Célia Bühler created the role-playing game and invited people to join them for a round at the Institute's annual event – the visiting government delegation from Burundi played along, of course!
And this is how it worked: The players assumed a role and debated measures on how the coffee sector should be developed from three perspectives – support, market and production – and the dice made the choice. Then they voted, with a green or red card, to approve or reject the proposed measure. The goal of the game: participants should learn about the challenges of the coffee sector in Burundi and those of the different stakeholders, and from this be able to assess the potential of agroecology. The Big Debate was one of four games that participants at HPCI’s annual event were able to experience firsthand.
What is agroecology, anyway?
Agroecology was the event’s theme: dreamy buzzword or practical solution for sustainable landscapes and food systems? was the title. Keynote speaker Madeleine Kaufmann, from the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) and former student of BFH-HAFL, explained the concept of agroecology, which is based on several principles. At its core, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), it follows a holistic and integrated approach to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable. This simultaneously combines environmental and social concepts as well as principles of sustainable farming and food systems.
Agroecology is becoming increasingly popular, as has also been evident in the increase in publications using this term from the past five or six years, according to Dominique Guenat, the Institute's previous director. The transformational power of agroecology in agriculture and food consumption was explained by Dr. Urs Niggli, President of the Institute for Agroecology and former Director of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in his keynote input.
Guenat and Studer bid farewell
The panel discussion focused on the theme “How can the HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute support agroecology?” Moderated by the new Head of the Institute, Zenebe Uraguchi, panel members Stefanie Pondini (Biovision Foundation), Marylaure Crettaz Corredor (SDC) and retiring BFH-HAFL professors Dominique Guenat and Christoph Studer answered a round of questions before Zenebe gave the microphone to the floor. A healthy debate about what can, could or should be done was presented by participants and panellists, but, of course, no definitive outcomes were reached on this multifaceted topic.
To close the event, Dominique Guenat and Christoph Studer were invited on stage to present some memorable moments from their 26 and 22 years, respectively, at HAFL. They spoke fondly about their favourite research projects, mainly in the Global South, and their strong bonds with the students. Nancy Bourgeois, Head of the group International Agriculture, gave a heartfelt thank you speech to them both and promised that their good work will continue.
For more information about The Big Debate game, contact Célia Bühler.
The HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute
The HAFL Hugo P. Cecchini Institute contributes to the development of sustainable smallholder agricultural, forest and food systems in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The annual event brings partners and contributors together to discuss current topics relating to the international development agenda.
Website of the institute