African roads to Sustainable Agroecology - Transdisciplinary Field Course

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African roads to Sustainable Agroecology

 Transdisciplinary Field Course
Eldoret, Kenya

To be announced




Africa consists of a massive network of infinitely many tiny paths that collectively go everywhere, but in any one place only the locals know where each path leads. This ‘African roads’ concept forms a good analogy for the agroecological approach needed for sustainable human cultivation on the continent. Instead of a few blanket solutions that are uniformly applied, a variety of techniques needs to be tailored to the local environment, knowledge, and peoples. The environmental challenges in Africa are multiple, including soil degradation, a hotter climate, water scarcity, elevated pest pressure, endangered biodiversity, and human-wildlife conflicts - the consequences of which are increasingly felt.

Agroecology, as an inclusive bottom-up process, has the potential to find optimal solutions to these challenges. However, the initial success of typical agroecological practises, including push-pull technology, integrated pest management, use of legumes and rhizobia, and no-till, were later shown not to be universal. It is becoming ever more clear that environmental context, in space and time, calls for local adaptation of agroecological principles and tailored solutions: African roads. Finding effective ways to address the environmental challenges is key. This is true not only for the developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa themselves, but also for the developed countries that depend on them as net importers of African products and (indirect) labour, and net exporters of environmental problems.

In this two week intensive on-site field course we will take a highly multidisciplinary mix of participants and instructors on a tour of the agroecological opportunities and challenges in sub-Saharan Africa. We will visit farming communities across the wide environmental and economic gradients found along the Rift Valley in Kenya, to see how the local biophysical and socio-economic context matters. We will engage in a transdisciplinary learning experience with local stakeholders to come to a common understanding of how agroecological principles can be applied, allowing participants to build understanding and find solutions across disciplinary boundaries in their own work.

Co-creation, diversity, food-environment nexus, ten principles of agroecology, 10-steps of transdisciplinary research.

Learning goals
Participants will develop
1. An in-depth understanding of the FAO’s 10 Element of Agroecology and their interactions
2. Gain hands-on experience with developing transdisciplinary (research) projects, i.e. to understand and experience the 10-steps to rendering research societally relevant
3. Assess the agroecological challenges and opportunities in biophysical and socio-economic context around Eldoret.

Course content

Agroecology is fundamentally different from other approaches to sustainable development. It is based on bottom-up processes, helping to deliver contextualised solutions to local problems. Agroecological innovations are based on the co-creation of knowledge, combining science with the traditional, practical and local knowledge of producers. By enhancing their autonomy and adaptive capacity, agroecology empowers producers and communities as key agents of change

The FAO has identified 10 Elements of Agroecology to help transform food and agricultural systems to mainstream sustainable agriculture on a large scale, and that this course takes as its core content. The 10 elements serve as an analytical tool to operationalise agroecology, a guide for researchers, policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders in planning, managing and evaluating agroecological transitions..Africa.jpg

The elements are interlinked and interdependent and, introduced briefly, include:

Diversity: Planning and managing agro-diversity is key to enhance provisioning services, strengthen ecological and socio-economic resilience and improve nutrition.
Synergies: Building synergies enhances key functions across food systems, particularly greater resource-use efficiency and resilience, landscape synchronisation of production and forming partnerships, cooperation and responsible governance.
Efficiency: Preducing more using less external resources, through recycling of biomass, nutrients and water, helps empowering producer autonomy and resilience.
Resilience: Enhanced resilience of people, communities and ecosystems to recover from disturbances including extreme weather events, pest attack and economic shocks.
Recycling: More recycling, by closing nutrient cycles and reducing waste, leads to agricultural production with lower economic and environmental costs.
Co-creation and sharing of knowledge: Innovations respond better to local (environmental, social, economic, cultural and political) challenges when co-created through participatory processes.
Human and social values: Protecting and improving rural livelihoods, equity and social well-being, by integrating the aspirations and needs of producers, distributors and consumers, reducing gender inequality and creating skilled jobs for rural youth.
Culture and food traditions: Supporting healthy, diversified and culturally appropriate diets to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes, realizing that cultural identity and sense of place are often closely tied to landscapes and food systems. Responsible governance: Sustainable food requires transparent, accountable, and inclusive governance from local to national to global scales, ensuring long-term equitable access to land and natural resources and stakeholder cooperation.
Circular and solidarity economy: Living within our planetary boundaries while ensuring the social foundation for inclusive and sustainable development, by creating shorter food value chains that fairly address local needs, resources and capacities by creating virtuous cycles.

Course set-up

The course is composed of a series of pitch lectures, subsequent discussions, field visits, and centrally a continuous group work where the transdisciplinary research approach is the guiding principle, culminating in a final presentation event for stakeholders. The course will start on Sunday and will run for two weeks. As soon as more detailed information about the programme is available, this will be published here.

General information
Target Group The course is aimed at international PhD candidates and Kenyan PhD/MSc candidates. We require ≥ 5yrs of relevant work experience for MSc candidates. Furthermore, Kenyan practitioners are welcome by invitation.
Group Size Min. 25, max. 40 participants
Course duration 12 days on-site, and possibly some preparation work before
Language of instruction English
Number of credits 3 ECTS
Lecturers To be determined
Location Outreach & International Student Centre, University of Eldoret, Kenya
Accomodation Accommodation and full board catering is included in the fee of the course


Course organizers

• Dr. Abigael Nekesa Otinga, University of Eldoret, Kenya.
• Dr. Ruth Njoroge, University of Eldoret, Kenya.
• Prof. Dr. Johan Six, Sustainable Agroecosystems, ETH Zürich, Switzerland.
• Dr. Pius Krütli, Transdisciplinary Lab, ETH Zürich, Switzerland.
• Dr. Marc Corbeels, CIRAD, France & International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Kenya.
• Dr. Claudius van de Vijver, PE&RC, Wageningen University, Netherlands.
• Dr. Jasper Wubs, ETH Zürich, Switzerland & Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Netherlands.

The African roads to Sustainable Agroecology Transdisciplinary Field Course is financially supported by:
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For further information contact Dr. Claudius van de Vijver ( or Dr Jasper Wubs (

At this moment, this course is not scheduled yet. However, if you register your interest in this activity below, we will inform you as soon as the course is scheduled and registration of participation is opened.