How We Work
In essence, SKI works in a way that enhances the relationship between people, sectors, interests, genders, generations and the earth. The main focus of all SKI partners, whether focused on research, advocacy, training, or working with farmers, is to support communities towards becoming healthy and resilient.
Most importantly this means that communities have a robust confidence in their knowledge and ability to farm and live on their land sustainably. It means communities have access to enough, good quality seed, are always able to grow a diversity of healthy plants and enjoy food sovereignty. We are very clear that working on Agroecology, seed and knowledge, as important as it is in itself, is also an entry point into the bigger process of re-building fragmented communities.
Our Theory of Change, strategy and principles of practice have been guided through experience and learning from each other. With learning at the heart of what we do, our practice is responsive, respectful and resourceful.
Our main principles of practice are …
- Collaborating and sharing information, skills and knowledge with farmers and other CSOs they work with and encouraging farmers or CSOs they work with to do the same.
- Promoting farmer independency and their ability to control processes and plans and not become dependent on partner organisations, but rather build reliance within and between their own groups.
- Ensuring active participation of those with whom they work in all areas of the work, including in the completion of baselines, the development of plans, and the training of others.
- Working in respectful, open and transparent ways, e.g. ensuring that research and/or survey results are shared with farmers and other interested actors.
- Working consciously and inclusively through committed engagements that empower farmers and partners and thus build relationships of trust and ownership.
We work to empower individuals, organisations and communities to be confident in their knowledge, to be inspired and from there to influence others.
Based on our Theory of Change and guided by shared principles, we work together with others to have impact on three key interrelated areas: Diverse farmer-led seed systems, Agroecology and Resilient Communities. Our approach is focused on strengthening and spreading the practices of agroecology and farmer-led seed systems; contributing to a growing movement on agroecology and farmers’ rights in the region; and to shift the discourse in policy, educational and public spaces.
Our strategy is not a blueprint, but primarily aims at creating enabling conditions for change to take place within the food and agriculture system.
We therefore …
- Identify and mentor individuals and groups with similar values and practices, and who are committed to take dynamic leadership. We facilitate leadership potential among farmers, seed champions, community and CSO leaders, by exposing them to training, exchanges, and also inspiring learning experiences in other contexts.
- Facilitate people-centred learning and sharing spaces for communities, farmers, women and youth, where they can network, forge relationships and build joint actions. We facilitate training and exchanges, and create spaces where farmers and other community groups can dialogue, deepen their understanding and produce new knowledge and develop common positions for action.
- Support and enable organisations, networks and initiatives to act strategically and collaboratively, to continue learning and to be responsive to what is asked from them to lead to change in the region. Community-based organisations in Africa have historically faced many challenges in accessing resources for action and this skews power relationships and their ability to respond at critical moments.
- Initiate the democratising of knowledge and knowledge institutions through participatory research with farmers and the nurturing of radical scholars aimed at challenging the discourse. Research, by farmers, community members, students and academics all form part of our strategy to create a body of knowledge that is both critical and supportive and which can be translated into accessible materials in different forms of media, to be used by a range of people, from farmers to policy-makers.
- Engage decision-makers with new knowledge and lobby for change. One focus is on working with civil society and farmer networks in engaging decision-makers on all levels and challenging them with evidence-based positions where necessary.
- Mobilise resources and making decisions about their use to support SKI and partner organisations’ actions in a strategic, participatory and responsive manner.
Theory of Change
Our Theory of Change is based on our understanding of how enduring social transformation happens through an intricate and cyclical process of individual, community and social change. It is also a response to our context, which requires a long term and fundamental paradigm shift.
Change starts with individuals and SKI's focus therefore rests on identifying key individuals within organisations and in farming communities that can become change makers because they are interested and committed. We assume that once specific attention is paid to develop the understanding, passion and leadership of such change makers through forums such as the Community of Practice, exchange visits, etc. their knowledge, expertise can be transferred to others.
The next level of intervention is on the community level and this happens mostly through these key change makers who create examples to follow and who infuse others with their enthusiasm. Partners focus on organising community level activities such as dialogues, seed fairs and food festivals that have a wider influence, and the experience will draw other members of the communities to participate in the work. Change-maker communities will eventually develop that will serve as inspiration for others.
Change on Societal level will take place when a tipping point of community and individual level understanding is reached. This can be achieved once there is enough connection, collaboration, and information exchange for organisations and farmers to start acting together. We assume that there is a point, which we cannot predict, where societal transformation occurs. At this point we will see social movements emerging that brings about wider societal change and also policy change. This is a long term impact for SKI.