Let’s reclaim our food sovereignty and transform the industrial food system!

African organisations participating in the global response to the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), including the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), coordinated an online session, as part of the three days of global counter-mobilisation, which took place during the UNFSS pre-summit, from 25 to 28 July 2021. The recording of the event is now available here.

At this event, we launched the common African position statement and we encourage African organisations to read the declaration and sign on by following this link.

We Africans reject the UNFSS as a continuation of the neo-colonial development and agrarian extractivist agenda on our continent. The UNFSS paints African food systems as deficient, and in need of more Western saviour technology, productivity and competitive enhancement. Yet this will only serve to further weaken systems already eroded by decades of state neglect and economic subordination.

Strengthening African food systems, and food producers, needs to be grounded in human rights, biodiversity and broader socio-ecological wellbeing. Together, we can begin to outline a people’s pan-African vision for food system transformation, from the ground up.

Featured speakers at the launch:

Moderators: Mariam Mayet, (ACB) and Mateus Santos, La Via Campesina (LVC)

Presentation of the common position

Introduction to the vision: Mateus Santos

The vision we defend: Mariam Mayet

What we denounce: Elizabeth Mpofu, Zimbabwe Small Holder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF)/ LVC

What we call for (FR): Dieudonné Pakodtogo, Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA)

Voices from the Ground

Youth and women: Nzira Deus, World March of Women

Fisherfolk: Christiana Saiti Louwa, World Forum of Fisher Peoples

Small-scale family farmers/Peasants: David Otieno, Kenyan Peasant League (KPL)

Urban food insecure: Samuel Ikua, Habitat International Coalition (HIC)

Indigenous people: Ali Aii Shatu, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee

Agricultural workers (FR): Mohamed Hakech, Fédération Nationale Du Secteur Agricole (FNSA/MAROC)

Closing performance: “Tell the children” a poem by South African Poet Khadija Tracey Heeger

Follow the social media conversation: #FoodSystems4People

For more information: https://www.foodsystems4people.org/

Nzira Deus, of World March of Women explained that corporations – such as mining companies that invade land and cause environmental damage – need to be taken out of the context of the UNFSS, We need to defend our land and all living beings, and make a way for sustainable futures that are grounded in the experience and knowledge grounded in communities.

“This is not a UN Summit but an agribusiness summit! We have to denounce digital agribusiness, with new biotech, data systems, and massive accumulation of land. These will only perpetuate these terrible conditions. We have to defend agroecology and denounce this summit. We have to come up with food systems that place nature at the heart.”

Mohamed Hakech, Fédération Nationale Du Secteur Agricole (FNSA/MAROC) explained that the millions of agricultural workers in Africa have to fight for their rights and reject the terrible conditions in large industrial farmers, with their industrial hybrid seed and chemicals, which leads to damaged food produced. During COVID, inequalities have only grown worse, with more precarious worker-employee relationships and longer hours. African government should restore human dignity.

“Our Africans food systems and cultures, based on our traditional and indigenous knowledge, have sustained us since time immemorial and we need to continue these systems. Bringing in corporate ideas that focus on finances and big money only leads to destroying them. Privatisation of our waters – what is called the ‘blue economy’ – is killing small-scale fishers. We have seen fish killed by pollution, chemicals, and the use of grenades in the water, which has led to reduced harvests. The ocean grabbing is fronted by the corporate world and is killing our cultures. What happens in the deep sea affects the small fishers on the shore, with small scale fishers and fishing communities in Africa, suffering because of unfavourable policies influenced by the world, and corporate capture of fisheries and oceans. Since time immemorial, we have used our cultural laws to govern our fisheries, which clashes with policies that do not favour us. We are against anything corporate driven that disadvantages small scale fishers in their own territories.”

– Christiana Saiti Louwa, World Forum of Fisher Peoples

“Agroecology uses few inputs, and has involvement of everybody in these systems. We need to defend our seed. Corporates want to capture our seed, as we see under the AU, SADC, and the EAC. Corporates are seeking to capture our seed and misinterpret Article 9 of the ITPGRFA. As movements, and as the KPL, and members of LVC, we say that people who are responsible for causing problems cannot bring solutions. We are gathering today to create our own space to defend our own systems.”

– David Otieno of Kenya Peasants League

“Authoritarian governments and complacency are furthering the extractive agenda of corporate agriculture, with an inextricable link between the capture of the state by elites and the pushing of the neoliberal agenda. Another factor is political instability – across the continent there are 25 conflicts. We have heard strong voices from the ground today. Small producers are not only organised but also understand that the state has failed to provide and protect its people. We are beginning a new chapter – building impetus and momentum among our collective struggles. Let’s continue to build greater love and solidarity among each other and our relationship with nature. We Africans signal loudly and clearly to the corporate capture of UNFFSS. We want to reclaim our food sovereignty and transform our food systems away from industrial agriculture.”

– Mariam Mayet, African Centre of Biodiversity

At one of the other online events, “Seed is power: Reclaiming African Seed Sovereignty”, ACB research and advocacy officer, Sabrina Masinjila, presented on: “Africans speak out against corporate hegemony over seed and food systems”. You can read more about this event and watch Sabrina’s presentation here.