COVID19 & Conflicts: Impact on Africa’s Food sovereignty

Preamble

We, networks of African peasants, fisherfolk, pastoralists, agricultural workers, urban food insecure, consumers, indigenous peoples, women, youth and civil society engaged in the popular consultation launched in April 2022 by the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSIPM) of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS),  have come together to exchange and discuss the situation and concerns related to food that we are experiencing now in our territories, our countries and our different regions in Africa. We are strongly calling on our governments, our communities, our organisations and all other groups of actors at the different levels of our food systems to mobilise and engage together to truly take charge of the food sovereignty of our continent.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have added significant new stresses to the fragile global food supply chains, which had already revealed their limits in social, environmental and economic terms.

Africa is a prime victim of existing global inequalities: a subordinated economic power on the world scene, with limited voice in political decision-making directly affecting the continent and its nations and extremely uneven distribution of costs and benefits arising from exploitation of its natural resources. Affected by structural inequalities introduced from the time of colonisation and reinforced by neoliberal policies, African countries suffer today from food import dependency and unsustainable levels of debt which, tied to the complex conditionalities of debt agreements, gravely affect the governments’ abilities to put effective social protection and people-centred development measures in place.

Extractivism and corporate resource grabbing are expanding. Multiple armed conflicts are spurred on by the acceleration of global armaments markets. These conditions amply justify the frustration and the despair of the youth, in many countries and regions, the breeding ground for their engagement in dangerous and illicit routes of survival. Women are particularly affected and their burden is compounded by gender-based violence and inequalities.

This situation has further exposed the urgent need for deep change towards more resilient, sustainable, localized and equitable forms of provisioning healthy and nutritious food based on principles of justice, the right to food, and food sovereignty, which enhance the local know-how and resources in the territories and the different countries.

But powerful geo-political and economic actors are increasingly mobilizing and promoting narratives and initiatives that aim at reinforcing and deepening the reach and dominance of the global industrial food system. These initiatives are seeking to sidestep the only inclusive and participatory global food and agriculture governance and accountability forum in which social movements can make their voice heard and governments can jointly deliberate and be held to account – the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) – in favor of a ‘multistakeholder’ model of governance.

Faced with today’s multiple food crises, African governments are increasingly calling for breaking dependency on food imports. However, most of them are implementing, at the same time, an agenda of ‘modernizing’ African agriculture by concentrating investments in specialized export-oriented commodities, based on corporate seeds and technologies that destroy our continent’s  capacities and possibilities  to effectively limit food dependency. The vertical and horizontal incoherence of sectoral policies, particularly in the areas of agriculture and trade (national, regional and international), also constitute severe blockages to protecting and promoting local supply of food and agricultural products to sustainably cover most of the food and nutrition needs of our population and industry. Even where policy frameworks promoting agroecological family farming and territorial food systems have been adopted, with the participation of producer organizations, they are still not being implemented.  

Instead, for us, African small-scale food producers and other social constituencies, this is the moment to decisively change the paradigm and the strategic orientations of the continent’s food and agriculture policies in order to achieve Africa’s food sovereignty, based on the continent’s rich natural resources, its peoples, knowledge, practices, the diversity of its cultures and social traditions. Producing what we eat and eating what we produce. Coherence is needed between short-term responses to immediate needs and longer-term transformative action, in a context of global transition and climate change.

Attaining this perspective in public policy requires the engagement of political decision-makers, consumers and our social movements.

We strongly call on African political authorities to:

  • Recognize and support the value of indigenous knowledge, plants and people.
  • Respect the Maputo commitment of dedicating at least 10% of the national budget to the agriculture sector, and prioritize investment to the benefit of small-scale producers and the development of sustainable territorial food systems to build food sovereignty.
  • At all levels, develop coherent and inclusive cross-sectoral food strategies linking urban and rural areas, with pertinent and adequate infrastructure, making it possible for African producers to continue to supply territorial markets and cover most of the needs of urban people and local industry with healthy and nutritious food. These strategies should include regulating markets and blocking imports that compete with and undercut local products.
  • Promote policies and measures that support control over natural resources and biodiversity (land,  water, seeds…) by African people themselves.
  • Promote and support the expansion of sustainable production systems generated by communities and small-scale producers, particularly agroecology, which has been demonstrated to be an effective strategy for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • Defend all interrelated human rights and maintain peace and security, the basis for all social life.
  • Raise Africa’s voice in international spaces like the CFS, not allowing decisions to be taken by a handful of well-resourced commodity exporting countries, particularly on issues like international trade and debt which severely condition the policy space of African countries.

We, networks of African small-scale producers, consumers, social movements and civil society organizations, engage and commit to:

  • Develop practices of responsible consumption as citizens, based on agricultural and food products  supplied by family farms and local agro-food units, contributing to poverty reduction of small-scale producers, to the economic development of our territories and to the reduction of their food dependency.
  • Step up our mobilization, coordinate more and strengthen our communication and collaboration with each other, united towards the same goal – Food Sovereignty, Peace and Justice for all.
  • Strengthen dialogue with our government representatives to monitor the implementation of their commitments and contribute to the implementation of pertinent and coherent sectoral policies with public investments directed towards priority support for agroecology and sustainable territorial food systems for food sovereignty.
  • Join hands to develop a continental campaign to promote and protect family farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, urban food insecure and other constituencies.

We call on African governments and civil society, engaging together, to defend the UN CFS and push for it to act as an inclusive multilateral space for developing coherent, globally coordinated policy guidance addressing present and future food crises, with priority voice for most affected countries and constituencies.

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