Towards Food Sovereignty to Feed Africa: Nurture the Environment and Put Farmers at the Center

TOWARDS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY TO FEED AFRICA: NURTURE THE ENVIROMMENT AND PUT FARMERS AT THE CENTRE

LOME, TOGO 19 JULY 2014

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), an alliance of African farmer and civil society networks and allies met in Lome, Togo 17-19th July 2014 to celebrate the International Year of the Family Farming, and reaffirm their opposition to corporate driven industrial agriculture in Africa and commitment to food sovereignty. For AFSA, family farming is about small scale farming by local African communities who are the main food producers on the continent.

AFSA is committed to small farmer led solutions to Africa’s food crisis and are vehemently opposed to measures imposed by for instance, the G8 New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), spear headed by the world’s industrial powers. The explicit emphasis of NAFSN is to industrialise African agriculture and promote corporate control over Africa’s food systems. The NAFSN is pressuring African countries to rewrite their seed and land laws to allow for fully fledged entry and profit making by multinational corporations on the continent. We are equally concerned about other similar initiatives, including the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the US government’s Feed the Future (FtF) Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership, and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa(AGRA).

Land grabbing

AFSA is outraged by the unprecedented landgrabbing of African farmland in the past decade by foreign countries, companies driven by a desire to ensure their own future food security or simply to make money out of Africa’s farmland through the establishment of huge corporate commodity farms. These processes are often carried out with the tacit support of local elites. Additional drivers include the growing market demand for biofuel crops and the projected exponential growth of the African urban food market – estimated to exceed US$400 billion by 2030. Land in Africa is a social and cultural resource and access to land is the foundation of all farming. Large-scale land grabbing, estimated to be in the region of around 50 million ha has already resulted in the massive displacement of small farmers, food insecurity, conflict, water loss and environmental damage. Millions of African farming families are at the risk of being displaced and losing their livelihoods if this trend is allowed to continue-with catastrophic consequences for the continent, its people and our food sovereignty.

African seed systems under threat

African countries are being severely pressurized into abandoning their farmer-based seed systems and hand these systems over to the corporate sector, based on the imperative that food production needs to be increased by the adoption of industrial large-scale monocropping farming systems. Donors and potential investors have identified weak governance and regulatory systems and institutions in Africa as immediate obstacles to the expansion of corporate seed systems that are based on quality controls and intellectual property.

A key priority in the industrial agriculture agenda is to facilitate regional harmonisation of policies and laws to regulate and support investment in seed and agrochemicals. African governments are being co-opted into reviewing their seed laws and supporting the implementation of PVP laws through fast-tracked regional harmonisation processes and trading blocs under the auspices, for example, of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO).

These laws are designed to facilitate the corporate control over Africa’s seed systems, and criminalise the age-old farmer practices of replanting, exchanging and selling farm saved seed and propagating material.

Small farmers are the creators and custodians of Africa’s seed diversity. They produce the bulk of the food in Africa and their crop varieties are the cornerstone for food production on the continent. The recent policy shifts by ARIPO and others totally undermine this central role of small farmers and hands over the control of Africa’s seeds and farming to foreign corporates.

AFSA also takes notice of the push by Monsanto to commercialise its GM (bt) cotton in Africa. Already there is resistance to this in Malawi, and AFSA is committed to strongly resisting the commercial growing of GM crops in Africa. Experiences from Burkina Faso and South Africa has already shown that cultivating Monsanto’s GM cotton carries a high risk of trapping small holder farmers in a cycle of debt and dependence. AFSA will resist this GM push strongly as it is also designed to open the flood- gates to GM technology in Africa, which is mostly closed.

Agro-ecology in the hands of peasants the way to go

AFSA is determined to fight against these destructive policies and practices and advance small-holder farmer led agroecology within a food sovereignty paradigm as an African solution to an African problem. We are committed to building on farmers’ age-old knowledge and practices to improve soils and water systems, to nurture our seeds, and improve the productivity of our farms in harmony with nature. Numerous studies and policy documents have already shown that this approach is ecologically sustainable and socially just and one that can indeed feed Africa. They are diverse and more resilient in the face of climate change. Diversity of diet, founded on diverse farming systems, delivers better nutrition and greater health, with additional benefits for human productivity and livelihoods.

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Towards Food Sovereignty to Feed Africa; Nurture the Environment and Put Farmers at the Center