The transition to agroecology in Africa is closely related to the development and promotion of territorial markets. While there are many ways in which territorial markets address food sovereignty, below are the top five:
- Provision of healthy and culturally appropriate foods
Territorial markets in Africa contribute to increased access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food by providing local access to a variety of food products, including locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and other staples. Family caretakers, such as mothers, depend on territorial markets to access fresh and diverse foods. In Africa, these are typically available at favorable prices for both the consumer and the seller who often is the farmer. Territorial markets also promote access to markets for farmers, which helps to increase awareness of local cultural and economic issues, enabling social actors to better understand their local context and the political, economic, and social forces operating in their communities. This understanding is then used to create initiatives and campaigns to promote access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food.
- Better interaction between farmers and consumers
Building on the above, territorial markets provide a platform for farmers and producers to engage in direct marketing of their products, allowing them to access more customers, earn more profits, and build closer relationships with their customers. Territorial markets also provide a platform for producers to share knowledge and information on agroecological practices and access resources and services related to agroecology. Additionally, territorial markets support local economic development, help to create employment opportunities, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and preserve traditional cultures and knowledge. As such, they are essential to the transition to agroecology in Africa.
- Promotes independence of communities
The COVID-19 pandemic, associated lockdowns, and the war in Ukraine highlighted the importance of territorial markets in several ways. Lockdowns placed restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which limited the ability of large, centralized markets to function. This meant that local, territorial markets were the only available option for many consumers to access food and agricultural products, especially in Africa.
- Enhancing environmental sustainability and agroecological diversity
Territorial markets provide a platform for farmers and small-scale producers to market their products and help to support small-scale, localized production, which reduces the environmental impact of food production and consumption. Additionally, territorial markets promote agroecological diversity by offering a platform for producers to showcase their locally produced, high-quality niche products, increase awareness and knowledge of agroecological practices, and promote sustainable agricultural production and consumption.
- Reduction of rural poverty
Territorial markets play an important role in reducing rural poverty by providing local access to goods and services, allowing people to purchase the things they need to survive and thrive. This access to markets helps to reduce economic disparities between rural and urban areas and creates economic opportunities for those living in rural areas. Territorial markets also provide a platform for local farmers to sell their produce and access markets outside of their local area, providing an important source of income. Additionally, access to markets can help to create jobs in rural areas and provide opportunities for rural people to diversify their income streams.
Bottlenecks hindering the advancement of Territorial markets in Africa
Despite their importance, data concerning territorial markets with details on the availability of different food groups and food retailers and consumers’ characteristics are often not available in national data collection systems. Other challenges include limited access to finance and infrastructure, poor market information, inadequate quality assurance systems, lack of access to technology and new developments, and limited education and awareness about the importance of local markets.
Also, many smallholder farmers lack access to resources such as land, water, and capital, which limits their ability to produce and market their products. There are also large disparities between urban and rural areas, which can make it difficult for rural communities to access the markets. Finally, regional governments often face financial difficulties, which limit their ability to invest in the development of territorial markets.
Recommendations to Agroecological Farmers, African Governments, Civil society organizations, African agroecology entrepreneurs (AAEs) and territorial market leaders
African governments should take steps to promote the development of territorial markets to ensure food security and nutrition, strengthen local economies, and promote sustainable agricultural practices. These steps should include providing access to finance, investing in infrastructure, and creating incentives for smallholder farmers. Governments should also create supportive policies and regulations that promote the development of local markets, such as introducing price and quality standards, providing market information to producers and consumers, and establishing quality assurance systems. Additionally, governments should invest in research and development to increase productivity and ensure access to new technologies and work with civil society organizations to promote education and awareness about the importance of local markets.
Agroecological farmers should focus on developing high-quality products and services that are in line with their agroecological principles. This includes investing in sustainable inputs and production techniques.
Civil society organizations should play a key role in advancing territorial markets to address food sovereignty. They should work towards establishing and strengthening networks of small-scale producers and support their organizations, promote and encourage local production of food and the development of local markets, ensure that small-scale producers have access to resources and finance, support research, advocacy, and policy dialogue to create an enabling environment for local markets. They should also engage in capacity-building initiatives and raise awareness about food sovereignty, develop innovative approaches to connecting small-scale producers to markets, and support the development of local value chains and local food systems.
African agroecology entrepreneurs (AAEs) should focus on creating value-added products and services to differentiate their products from those of competitors. This includes differentiating the product in terms of quality and price. African agroecology entrepreneurs should also take advantage of digital marketing tools and technologies to promote their products and services. AAEs should also focus on creating linkages with other stakeholders in the food system, such as retailers, distributors, and food processors. This will allow them to access larger markets and provide their products to a wider audience, building relationships with local and regional governments which will help to create a more favorable environment for agroecology entrepreneurs and ensure that their efforts to increase food sovereignty are supported by the government. Finally, AAEs should focus on encouraging consumer education about their products and the importance of food sovereignty. This can be done through campaigns to create awareness and engage consumers in the food sovereignty movement.
African territorial market leaders can take several steps to advance territorial markets and address food sovereignty by strengthening local infrastructure and services such as storage, transport, and processing. They should also establish supportive policies and regulations to promote market access and competition and protect smallholder farmers and traders. Leaders should support the development of information systems, such as digital mapping, to help farmers and traders access market information and identify the most profitable and sustainable production and marketing options.
Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) therefore calls upon all relevant stakeholders to use the information on the role of territorial markets towards the advancement of food sovereignty as motivation for doing their part in advancing territorial markets.
By Ruth Nabaggala
African Agroecological Entrepreneurship (AAE) project officer
Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa-AFSA