Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a network of 36 civil society actors, representing smallholder farmers and pastoralists, has urged the African Union to endorse the initiative to develop an Africa Food Policy that guarantees the urgent and pressing need for Africa to feed itself.
According to the AFSA members, Africa is currently importing foods at exorbitant costs yet it can be produced cheaply locally because the existing Food Policy was not sensitive to the needs of the small scale producers who majorly feed the continent.
Speaking during the launch of the African Food Policy Initiative at a Nairobi Hotel, AFSA Board Chairperson, Chris Macoloo, was however optimistic that at least 50 out of the 55 countries in Africa, had enlisted with the initiative to turn around the sorry state of affairs.
He said already 23 countries had developed a lab and dialogue among the Communities were open to collect and collate views on how best to propel the food agenda, to ensure that the continent was well fed.
Macoloo noted that with global crises some caused by the unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change, it was critical to formulate a Policy that would be able make a great difference in address food situation in the Continent.
“Production levels in Africa are down, thereby necessitating food imports. The industrialized food production is not resilient to the effects of climate change and it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which result in global warming hence reducing productivity,” he said.
Policies that are currently being implemented in various countries, MacOloo explained, is foreign and has been top- down, but now with the beginning process of a common policy, where there will be participation from down to up, a lot will be addressed.
The need to have and African Food Policy that has the support of African Union, he noted, is timely since the new home grown policy will be emphasizing on promotion of agro ecology farming systems, that heal the earth and revitalizes soil health, hence result in increased food production.
Macoloo explained that during the meeting that was attended by representatives from 23 countries, they realized that there has been a lot of consistencies, especially with different policies that affect different aspects of food and yet they are not coherent but discordant in the policy formulation.
“The implementation of these policies is also wanting, they are good documents on paper but are not actualized at the base where they are supposed to make a difference,” he added.
He gave an example of Kenya, whose Constitutions stipulates that People have a right to food, wondering whether people know they have a right to food and not just food but adequate and healthy food.
Macoloo noted that these are the issues the government is grappling with and is keen on are addressing the challenge, to bring to the attention of small-scale producers who include, farmers, fisher folks, pastoralists, indigenous people and civil society organization at grassroots to be able to formulate policies relevant to our situation.
Macoloo said that as AFSA who are network organization that work in more than one country and can be able to influence policies at country level, they want to empower members of each country to monitor implementation of the policies they are championing, especially in going the Agro ecology way as opposed to convention industrial based agriculture that is killing the soil because of toxic material being used in farming systems .
“The notion that industrial agriculture is the only one that can feed the country is wrong, since some people argue consider agro-ecology as a backward farming using ‘jembes’ and yet it is a science, a movement and practiced and it mimics the functioning of natural ecosystem.
The dialogue that has begun, Macoloo, said will be involving communities, government departments and relevant stakeholders in a participatory manner.
Overall, the Board Chair, said the new Policy will shorten the food value chain by encouraging the utilization of local territorial markets for the distribution of food.
This lesson, MacOloo emphasized, was learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic when importation and distribution of food was interrupted, saying AFSA through its member networks will build the capacity of farmers in applying agro ecological principles of food production which is an important strategy for climate change adaptation.
AFSA Coordinator Million Belay said the drive of coming up with a common olicy for Africa is because since most of the food related experiences that Europe, USA and, Asia have is also experienced in Africa and since European have a common policy, Africa also needs a common one.
“Most Africa’s Policy space is already occupied by external actors and interests but now with the consultants working at African Union level and other key government non-government institutions, willing to work with the 23 countries, they can now actually write the Policy of Africa based on the wish of the people,” Belay said.
Monica Yator, a founder member of indigenous women and girl’s initiative based in Baringo County, said they have built community resilience by practicing Agro-Ecology which they have introduced to pastoralists communities.
“Baringo has of late been identified with Disaster, Floods and even conflicts brought about by Climate change and as rural Women we want our voices to be heard at both County and National level by calling on them to ensure that County Climate Bills that are already enacted but awaiting public participation have a component of Agro-Ecology which most pastoralists are involved in,” Yator said.
The new Policy according to the experts will promote food sovereignty through agro ecology and what sovereignty means is it ensures that the farmer is in charge of the key processes along the food value chain.
The Policy will further ensure the production of healthy and culturally appropriate food crops, minimize the consumption of processed foods which are unhealthy, non-nutritious and result in non-communicable diseases.
By Wangari Ndirangu