Diverse actors from 30 countries have called for a comprehensive Africa Food Policy that supports the continent’s need to feed itself in the face of global uncertainty and climate change.
The social movements’ call followed the conclusion of the 4th Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) Biennial Food Systems Conference, which was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, from November 28-30, 2022.
Titled ‘Mobilising African Food Policy and Action for Healthy Food Systems’, the meeting drew over 170 participants.
AFSA Chair Dr Chris Macoloo said the current food system based on the industrial agriculture narrative has failed to feed the world and Africa. He said that the food system has hurt human health, polluted the environment and fueled climate crises.
“By giving an Afrocentric roadmap to healthy diets and sustainable food systems, this conference provides hope and optimism for a much-needed alternative solution to food insecurity, mounting public health disorders, and the climate catastrophe,” said Dr Macoloo.
The conference highlighted novel approaches for learning and celebrating African food cultures, foods, diets, and cuisines to advance an African perspective on nutrition and food systems.
Participants prepared cuisines from various African countries including Kenya.
Cameroon’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Gabriel Mbairobe, who opened the conference, said Africa’s food security was hugely impacted by the war in Ukraine and called on the continent’s leaders to look for ideas and strategies to produce “our food with lower prices” while guaranteeing healthier, accessible and sustainable diet.
The event also marked the launch of the pan-African campaign “My Food Is African” which aims to inspire people in Africa to desire and demand traditional foods, dishes, diets and cuisines.
AFSA general coordinator Million Belay said Africa must boost its capacity to respond to various crises such as pandemics, wars and climate catastrophes.
“Agroecology is the best and most efficient way to build a food system that increases community resilience to climate change, provides healthy and sustainable diets, and protects the environment,” Dr Belay noted.
During the conference a new book “My Food is African: Healthy Soil, Safe Foods, and Diverse Diets” was launched.
The book, which is part of ‘My Food is African’ campaign, is aimed at sparking interest in Africa’s unique, delicious, and healthy foods and cultures as a way of fostering a safer, healthier, and more sustainable path to food sovereignty.
Charles Mulozi, AFSA’s advocacy and campaign coordinator highlighted Africa’s need to celebrate its vast diversity, which is reflected in its diverse cultures, languages, and cuisine.
“We cannot afford to rely solely on a few food crops, as this lowers the nutritional value of our diets, leaves our food system vulnerable to the climate crises and weakens our ability to adapt,” said Mr Mulozi.
AFSA members and participants called on African governments to channel funding towards agroecology which builds resilience in food systems in the event of unpredictable events.
The groups warned that the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the potential uprising in the South China Sea could hold Africa’s food availability and accessibility hostage.
The groups, therefore, also called on the African Union Commission (AUC) to anchor the development of the emerging Food Systems Policy on Africa's diverse cultural foods and dishes and recognize their great value to people’s health and nutritional security.
They urged donor communities to direct funding towards upscaling ‘My Food is African’ campaign, aligning policies and programmes towards the transition to agroecology which supports the consumption of healthy and culturally appropriate food, and increased investments in agroecological enterprises.
They urged health experts, teachers, citizens, religious leaders, traditional leaders, institutions of learning, performing artists, media, fisher folks, pastoralists, MPs, state actors, academics, entrepreneurs, cooperatives, dieticians and consumer associations to join the campaign.
This, they said, will ensure more people embrace the consumption of healthy and culturally appropriate food complete with a supportive policy.