That Africa can feed itself and the world was the crux of discussions by organic farmers, researchers, smallholder farmers, fisherfolks, faith based organisations, women and youths at the recently concluded three-day conference on the future of food systems in Africa, themed African Food Systems and the SDGs held in Dakar…..
The Conference had five thematic areas, which included urban food systems, food systems, climate change and soil, policy change on food systems in Africa, the future of food systems in an increasingly complex world and African cultural food systems.
The conference was organised by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), in partnership with the Ecological Organic Agriculture Initiative for Africa (EOA-1), AfroNet and IFOAM-Organics International.
Speaking to Pressmen, AFSA Coordinator, Dr Million Belay, said the conference was aimed at creating solidarity among participants so that Africa can move into the future together. He added, “AFSA was an open system which opened itself to new ideas from others to incorporate into their programmes to help member organisations in the future.”
Speaking on the choice of themes, the coordinator said, “urban system was chosen because it is growing as an unplanned growth, claiming rural land, influencing what is being produced in rural areas, while the youths continue to flee to urban areas and create lots of problems in the urban areas(including health and scarcity of available resources).
He added that the second theme, complexity shows that Africans exist in a social and ecological complexity, where no one knows what will happen next, so what kind of food system should be adopted in the continent to ensure the types of soil as well as the types of policies that we should have as well as the challenges the African food system has.
He noted that the conference, which was the second to be organised by the organisation, had in attendance over 70 organisations and 40 countries from Africa (including Nigeria), as well as other countries from Europe.
“We can safely say that because the voices are coming from all stakeholders, we have agroecology as a solution to the challenges facing Africa’s food systems. So there has to be policies to support agroecology, support it with funding, creating policies and we have to advocate for that to happen.”
The coordinator, added that Africa has to however advocate for a food policy that would integrate everything, both agriculture and consumers. He stressed the need to further interact and partner with African government in the future.
Also speaking, Nigerian environmental activist and director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, said his take away from the conference was their views at the complexities surrounding food systems and production in Africa and the many false solutions and arguments.
“AFSA clearly has overturned all those narratives, it is clear that the agro ecological approach is able to adequately feed Africans. It is also very clear that there are many threats to food sovereignty, there is the ability of Africans to produce the food that they really need and the kind of food suitable to our culture and which is nutritious.”
“There is a lot of assault against that system by influx of genetically engineered organisms and products and organisms in Africa because of weak biosafety agencies and laws, whose jobs are only to permit, across the continent” he said.
“I have come away with the conviction that we are unto agricultural or food revolution in the country”.
Ms Claire of the African Network on the Right for Food Togo said, “The right to food ensures that all Africans have a place in the African alliance for food sovereignty. She however, noted that their rights to food and food sovereignty are rarely linked together and if we manage to realise our rights to food, we have food sovereignty.
The right to food should be included in the policies and programmes development, because when people have adequate rights to food, they are able to create wealth and move forward.
Zayan Khan from South Africa, said her take away from the conference was that it was important for the organisations to be disciplined in how they work together, just as the use of art facilitation was important, but we need to work in a way that makes it more coherent and more cohesive.
In her words, Gertrude Pswarayi with Pelum organisation in Zimbabwe, said her take away from the conference was the use of art as a way of exploring the inner person in connecting at a much deeper level.
Speaking on her hope for Africa she said, with the way we are doing things, I see a much stronger movement that is accountable to the people of Africa, a wealth and a strong voice for Africans and the workshop has managed to plant a seed that with time, will germinate and bear fruit to benefit the whole of Africa.
Meanwhile AFSA Chair, Marian Bassey-Orovwuje, said AFSA is a pan African platform, a network of over 30 African network organisations, operating in 42 out of the 54 countries in Africa.
AFSA members represent smallholder farmers and producers, consumers, indigenous people and local communities among others.
She said we live in challenging times. Africa has been presented with the poster image of a continent teeming with hungry, malnourished and poverty stricken people.
Using this template, the industrial agricultural companies and their collaborating partners have made very determined efforts to take over lands, food systems, introduce their propriety seeds, pesticides, herbicides and GMOs into the continent. They are also manipulating the earth systems through geoengineering.
She said we the people, not cooperation, are our best hope for restoring sanity to food and family systems.
“Global solidarity is needed for joint work to stop corporate take-over and control in Africa and the rest of the world. Citizens in Europe, America and around the world must scrutinise what corporations from their countries do overseas.
Corporations are not concerned about the environment; they destroy and contaminate our environment. The pesticide companies are giving us nothing in return for our land and abundant water. Taking our water, patenting our seeds, mistreating our ecology is a continuation of colonialism.
She charged, “As we work to maintain systems that support life, we also demand that offending corporations must be held accountable for these everywhere in the world”.