The value of learning together

The value of learning together

For the past year we’ve been involved in a collaborative project with six other organisations, called Agroecology: Strengthening LivelihoodsIt’s the third iteration of our collaborative effort to support more knowledge exchange and peer learning around agroecological practices – i.e. those which work with ecological processes and systems to produce food.  

A core group of 176 farmers, crofters and growers across seven learning networks explored agroecological, nature friendly farming practices together, including 20 of the practices featured in the Agricultural Reform Programme Draft List of Measures including winter cover, hedgerows, and water margins. Much of this learning was also shared with a wider network of 327 people, and made into a range of videos and resources. The work was funded by Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF), and we’re hoping to develop the model in 2024 to work with even more farmers, crofters and growers who are interested in exploring the many ways agroecology can work in practice. 

Farmers in the driving seat

Everyone learned things they didn’t expect to, lots of ideas took root, and many who were perhaps uncertain of where to start gained the confidence to implement more nature friendly farming practices, by seeing first-hand and learning from others who have already made changes. Bringing a diverse group of people together to learn from each other can open opportunities for collaboration, break down stereotypes and reimagine what truly sustainable agriculture could look like. 

As a group of organisations, we’ve also developed our learning about how to support peer learning networks more effectively, with farmers in the driving seat; and how to strengthen our collaborative ways of working with both farmers and each other.  

One topic that we have made a particular focus, both in this project and more widely, is agroforestry  integrating trees with food production.  

Darroch nurseries 3

Learning networks

Beyond our growing agroforestry network in Scotland (get in touch if you’d like to join), there are a growing number of regional and UK-wide learning networks, including topics like feeding tree fodder to livestock, and native tree nurseries; where people can share their experience and learn together. Click here to find out more, check out our native tree nursery video, or watch our recent tree hay webinar. We will have a big focus on agroforestry at GO Falkland in July (a Groundswell Outreach event), delivering a range of panel discussions and workshops in partnership with Scottish Forestry and Woodland Trust Scotland  look for our stand if you’re there. 

Integrating trees on farms is also a central theme in a new project looking at a whole farm approach to natural capital development; which is a new area of work for us in Scotland. We’ll be facilitating a pilot cluster of small and medium farms and crofts to take stock of the natural capital on their land – trees, hedgerows, agroforestry, peatland, soil, water, habitat – and explore how they might enhance, integrate and build on these features to deliver more for nature and the climate whilst producing quality food in a viable farming system. 

All of these projects, whilst exploring various aspects of agroecology, share the common themes of knowledge-sharing, learning together, and collaboration. It’s our intention to keep these themes central to our work as we go forward, and continue to build momentum around supporting a just transition to more sustainable, agroecological food and fibre production. 

We are grateful to the MacRobert Trust for supporting our ongoing work with farmers, crofters and growers in Scotland.