Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa Launches

Another re-blog from Hornlight.org. This time on an issue much dearer to my heart!

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a network of 14 Pan-African networks, was launched on December 4th, 2011 during closing of the 17th UN Conference on Climate Change, known as COP17. Members of AFSA, which include the African Biodiversity Network, Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of West Africa, and the  Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) align around one common vision: that “Food Sovereignty must be the way forward to ensure resilient food systems and ecosystems in the face of climate change and destructive development.” The mobilization of AFSA could not be more timely, as numerous African nations continue to be met with food-related crises that have left hundreds of thousands of indigenous populations without food security or land.

AFSA prioritizes indigenous knowledge, traditions and voices in seeking solutions to climate change, food insecurity, and to creating livelihoods. Their main approach is promoting agro-ecology as a solution to the many threats facing African food sovereignty. Agro-ecology is an approach that recognizes food as a right, respects existing ecological systems and the environment, and contributes to broad economic development. Current mainstream approaches to food insecurity in Africa focus on yield. However agro-ecology is receiving more acclaim as a sustainable and wholesome approach to addressing problems related to food from several local organizations, NGOs, and the UN rappoteur on food, Olivier de Schutter.

Threats to African food sovereignty identified by AFSA  include the growing bio-fuels industry which has motivated land grabs and land commercialization by foreign investors and corporations; the spread of Genetically Modified Seed (which is notorious for short crop cycles and depleting soils); and  increased food costs. Small-scale farmers are widely unsupported, and indigenous farming techniques are under-valued or ignored. A critical mass of African institutions who are well-positioned to advocate for affected communities will be essential in challenging these threats.

Why Food Sovereignty?

While food crises are often understood in terms of quantity (think, “there’s not enough food to feed people”) food insecurity is a consequence of poverty. Whether we’re dealing with malnourishment in Kenya or obesity in the United States, poverty largely determines food access and food insecurity. Mobilizing the poor and voiceless in the global food system is then crucial to making progress in fighting food and land insecurity.

Food sovereignty is an approach to strengthening food systems that tackles the problems associated with food access from their  roots versus into a system focused on yield. It focuses on the process of production instead of solely yield. Food sovereignty is a framework that engages small-scale farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and  their communities, allowing them to define the appropriate systems for food cultivation. Prioritizing ecosystems and social inclusion, this approach can enable modes of agricultural production that are as ethical, sustainable and non-hazardous to the environment as they are effective in addressing hunger. In light of strategies that are believed to seek to profit from food crises, such as the Gates and Monsato funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), imported fertilizers, GMO seeds, carbon trading– all of which introduce products and transactions for an outcome of increased yield; food sovereignty sees the preservation of land, farmers, and biodiversity as central, and indispensable in reaching a just and fruitful food system.

Perspectives voiced by AFSA members indicate that current “solutions” to food crises in Africa only reinforce the cycle of poverty and debt that many farmers find themselves in. Other views shared by  members  included a desire to heal, replenish and conserve the quality of the land and nourish the people who inhabit it, to avoid profit-based solutions, and to identify and interrupt land grabbing, one of the most vicious trends to have emerged on the continent as of late.

Read AFSA’s report that emphasizes how food sovereignty can cool the planet here.

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3 thoughts on “Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa Launches

  1. When poverty is expressed in strict economic terms the problem of food sovereignty unfortunately becomes a question of whether or not one is successful in a cash economy. That tendency shifts the debate away from the relationship people have with the land and with the production of food for life. By making that shift the argument for food sovereignty becomes a matter of contending economic forces and thus undermines the need to emphasize food for life. Land rights and the confiscation of lands by governments, corporations and development interests constitute the central controversy if one wants to consider where the battle lines are. Indigenous peoples must take the initiative and act proactively to reclaim the lands even at the expense of increased levels of conflict. Conflicts need not be violent, but may be political. Meanwhile, the emphasis internally must be not on cash, but food and that essential relationship to the land.

    1. thank you for reading and for your comment, rudolph. i absolutely agree. i am often frustrated to see how analysis of the issue of land grabs and food sovereignty is consistently expressed in economic and political terms, but leaves out the central relationship of land, food, and life, and in that sense obscures the sanctity of peoples’ relationships with their land and food production. thank you for reading and i am always looking to learn more about this issue– i’m confident that CWIS produces and encounters valuable perspectives about various movements for food sovereignty, so please share!

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