Female Agriculture Champions on Biodiversity and Behavior Change

Phidel Arunga (Kenya), Bimala Acharya Dahal (Nepal) und Daniela Borja (Ecuador) ar the CBD COP 14 in Egypt; Photo: ©Ann-Kathrin Neureuther/Rare

Phidel Arunga (Kenya), Bimala Acharya Dahal (Nepal) und Daniela Borja (Ecuador) ar the CBD COP 14 in Egypt; Photo: ©Ann-Kathrin Neureuther/Rare

IKI's Farming for Biodiversity project - is a three-year initiative that aims to identify proven solutions that work for agriculture and nature and bring them to scale. The project is led by Rare, together with IFOAM - Organics International and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). As part of the project, selected sustainable agriculture leaders attend an intensive 10-day training in their countries to learn how to use and apply the principles of behavior-centered design (BCD) to social and environmental challenges facing their community.

Phidel Arunga (Kenya), Bimala Acharya Dahal (Nepal) and Daniela Borja (Ecuador) are three female leaders out of 32 campaigners working on changing production and consumption patterns in their communities, across 9 countries and three continents. In as much as they hail from rural farming communities, they are not afraid to challenge the status quo in their communities- nor their own perceptions of how to change it. And shared the proverbial stage at the 14th global United Nations Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP14) held in Egypt in November 2018. This took place at the margins of the launch of the Farming for Biodiversity report, published by Rare and IFOAM-Organics International, which unearths results of 338 community-led solutions to connect agriculture and biodiversity, sourced from across the world.

In an interview following the CBD COP 14, they share with us their work, participatory experience and impact statements.

Phidel Hazel Arunga

Phidel and YPARD-Young Professionals' Platform for Agricultural Development are making agriculture attractive to young people in Western Kenya. By introducing rural youth to entrepreneurial and environment-friendly farming practices, Phidel is opening doorways to employment opportunities and easing pressure from rural-to-urban migration-all while protecting the planet.

Experience: The training and event changed me. At the COP, I saw people sitting around a table, making decisions that will affect you directly. And I realized that if you don't take part in these decisions, then your challenges and ideas won't be implemented. [These events] reinforced my confidence, in myself and in my work. I came away very confident in understanding an audience and targeting a message. One thing I took away, is that to believe in something, you have to follow it through...I now know that I can do this - I can believe in me.

Impact statement:  The future I want to make happen looks like this: youth have a proper representation and seat at the table; and at the same time, create their own jobs, and their own wealth, in a perfect environment. Even if I help to create a small community that can have that kind of life, that is an achievement-and it can have a replicative effect. Success attracts success.

Bimala Acharya Dahal

Seizing on the growing global trend to "go organic", Bimala left her career in business and turned to organic farming. Catering to Kathmandu's growing market for healthy products, she is growing urban organic movement by offering trainings on rooftop farming. Now, Bimala is going national: By encouraging farmers in remote areas of Nepal to obtain organic certification, she is helping them tap into new income opportunities.

Experience: The training energized me to work with the local communities, which I had not thought to work with before. Before, I just thought about my own work - my farmer's market, my rooftop garden, my women's group. Now, I want to replicate what I am doing in Kathmandu with rural farmers. I came back from the training, and event, and people start to look at me differently-with respect. Now they believe in me and what I am doing. This is a kind of behavior change.

Impact statement:  Recently, I read a UN report stating that small-scale farmers can feed the world. I believe that where there is no farming, there is no life. A better life is that the young people stay in Nepal and grow everything the Nepalese need. By building a system that values organic farming, I can then rejoice in the respect they deserve and the income from organic agriculture that will make them, and the world, rich and healthy.

Daniela Borja Kaisin

Daniela Borja is part of a rescue campaign for Ecuador's indigenous seeds. On the producer side, the group supports farmers to act as "Guardians of the Seed", increasing the amount of available seeds. On the consumer side, Daniela and her team facilitate the development of a vibrant gastronomy based on traditional food products. With her Farming for Biodiversity campaign, Daniela is on a mission to make traditional crops the next big thing among the housewives of Quito.

Experience:  Being surrounded by important people, organizations, ideas and decisions at the CBD COP, I was initially nervous and intimidated-I didn't know how, coming from a small organization, I could contribute.  But slowly, throughout the week, I realized that we are all humans, concerned about similar environmental issues- and that it's important for decision-makers to hear about our experiences and practices at the local level.  I left feeling empowered, knowing that my work is important and that what I learned from the training will make my work more effective and impactful. It gives me hope. I'm so inspired that I'm spreading the word about the training and sharing my learnings with everyone!

Impact statement:  I dream of an awakened community of people, who together care about our surroundings and each other.  Conscious consumerism-urban gardeners are growing their own food, communities are planting trees and protecting their water, networks of seed guardians are spreading throughout Ecuador and the world...people are connected, partnering for good, and dreaming together of a better life, regardless of how far apart we may seem.