By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Over 70 Civil Society Organisations on the platform of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) have called on African governments to reject the continued reliance on colonial narrative as a means to gaining the continents’ food sovereignty.
They maintained that diversity not a false solution is key to achieving food sovereignty and reliance in Africa
In a statement following the outcome of the Dakar 2 Summit with the theme “Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience” with 34 heads of state and 70 ministers in attendance, the CSOs endorsed wholeheartedly the commitment to free Africa from hunger and the shared resolve for Africa to feed itself with dignity and pride.
The Alliance however also called on African governments and donors to redirect funding away from failed ‘green revolution’ approaches towards proven agroecological alternatives through uniting generations of indigenous knowledge, farmer-driven and science-based innovations, and the ecosystem’s natural processes, agroecological food systems can adapt to and help solve the climate crisis.
According to them “We celebrate the increased investment and the renewed commitment of governments to allocate 10% of public expenditure to agriculture, we applaud the resolve to escape from the shame of dependency on food imports and handouts, we share the recognition of the need and benefits of engaging youth in agriculture and the appreciation of the fundamental role of women in food production and we acknowledge the vibrant catalytic role of the African Development Bank in mobilising such widespread African government support and enthusiasm
They said they were deeply concerned that any significant increase of African land under agriculture would undermine human rights. Wherever large-scale land acquisitions occur, we see failure to gain community consent, failure to compensate, forced evictions of indigenous people, women’s loss of access to productive land, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and land degradation.
They were further alarmed by the AfDB’s intense focus on two cereals – wheat & maize –, alleging it rejects Africa’s vast catalogue of nutritious indigenous crops and local varieties. Resilience comes from diversity – in crops, food sources, soil amendments, and supply chains.
The failure of government leaders to see beyond the colonial narrative that African agriculture can only be modernised by adopting the practices of the Global North. Africa has its own resources and know-how to produce healthy food using effective, low-cost, chemical-free inputs, regenerating the soil sustainably.
The CSOs therefore said they reject the continued reliance on colonial thinking – to raise production of staple crops using imported farm inputs, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and hybrid and GMO seeds. Food sovereignty is freedom from external control. A country dependent on imported fertilizer has lost its sovereignty as much as a country that depends on food imports or donations.
“We reject the tendency to entrust African agriculture and food to multinationals while ignoring the continent’s positive attributes (number of farmers, youth and arable lands). Africa should not copy the mistakes of others, but rather bring a new way of doing things.
We denounce the reliance on a top-down, public-private partnership approach to agricultural development. Where were the voices of African farmers and citizens at this food summit?
AFSA General Coordinator Million Belay opined that “This summit propagates the idea that African farmers don’t produce enough food because they don’t use enough chemical fertilisers,” “The implication is that if we pump our farms with agrochemicals, we will grow more food. Even though this might serve as a short-term strategy, in the end, it means polluting the soil, making farmers dependent on external inputs, endangering the health of farmers and consumers, robbing people of their right to healthy, culturally appropriate and nutritious food, and increasing vulnerability to climate change.”
Africa faces the triple burden of malnutrition – hunger, micronutrient deficiency, and obesity/non-communicable diseases. Zambia showed us the failure of hybrid mono-crops, which produced back-to-back maize surpluses yet became the most malnourished country in Africa, with 40% of young children stunted. In South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised country, GMO maize is the staple food, and fast food is the urban norm. Now, half of all adults are overweight (23%) or obese (27%), and NCDs like diabetes cause life-altering illnesses, disabilities, and premature death.
He maintained that the authentic African solution is a commitment to agroecology and food sovereignty – the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods and the right to define one’s own food and agriculture systems.
Kenyan farmer leader Ferdinand Wafula was emphatic in his plea, “We urge policymakers, governments, and donors to provide more funding to agroecology, which offers straightforward solutions to nutrition challenges, the climate crisis, and food insecurity
Farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and local communities use agroecology to steward their land sustainably, produce nourishing food that celebrates cultural heritage, and strengthen local markets and economies. This way, together, we can feed Africa.