Lobby pushes for continent-wide food policy

Agriculture

Agroecology finds its success by applying ecological principles to agricultural systems, adopting regenerative practices and integrating indigenous knowledge.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Peter Gubbels, the director of action research and advocacy for West Africa at Groundswell International, noted that there cannot be a sustainable healthy diet “with all this dumping going on”.
  • He said the food system goes beyond a linear value chain to include people’s relations to food in terms of gender and resilience.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) is pushing for a continent-wide food policy that will see a shift to agro-ecology.

The group, which last year called on donors to stop funding programmes that promote industrialised agriculture in Africa, also raised the alarm over harmful chemicals in food.

“If we needed any more persuasion that food sovereignty is critical, then Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine should have done it. Food sovereignty is more than food security because when you are food-sovereign you have the freedom to question its source,” said Dr Million Belay, the AFSA coordinator.

He said agro-ecology, which stresses the relationship between plants, animals, humans and the environment within the agricultural system, is a sustainable way of food production and should be embraced by the continent.

Dr Belay said there was need to transition to agro-ecology by strengthening production and creating a conducive environment for agro-ecological markets to thrive.

He spoke recently during a meeting of an AFSA citizen working group held in Uganda to chart how to advance agro-ecological enterprise in Africa.

AFSA – which represents more than 200 million farmers, fishers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples across Africa – roots for cultivation techniques and breeding programmes that do not rely on chemical fertilisers, pesticides or artificial genetic modifications.

The group has commissioned research to investigate food dumping in Africa in collaboration with GRAIN, a non-profit organisation that supports small-scale farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems.

“The goal was to highlight how large food corporations create new risks, increase the possibility of cross-border contamination, and expose consumers to fraudulent actions that compromise food safety,” Dr Belay said.

Peter Gubbels, the director of action research and advocacy for West Africa at Groundswell International, noted that there cannot be a sustainable healthy diet “with all this dumping going on”.

He said the food system goes beyond a linear value chain to include people’s relations to food in terms of gender and resilience.

Policies on climate, agriculture and trade that do not speak to each other were identified as another key impediment to a more wholesome and sustainable food system in Africa.

Another issue discussed at the conference was the growth of non-communicable diseases attributed to chemicals in food.

“So many chemicals banned in Europe and America are still used on food crops in Africa. We must conduct tests to establish what chemicals are in our food,” said Susan Nakacwa, a researcher.

The workshop took place at a conference in Kampala to develop a shared vision for the growth of African agro-ecological entrepreneurs and territorial markets centred on equitable and sustainable development for a healthy and viable diet.

AFSA is pushing for a food policy that shifts the conversation away from food production and toward bringing together land, seed, climate and other citizen-related issues.

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