Burkinabé Bounty connects the resistance of smallholder farmers on the African continent

Sabrina Masinjila, ACB’s Outreach and Advocacy officer based in Tanzania, organised a group of farmers to attend a screening of this film at the Zanzibar International Film Festival. She reflects on the experience.

The role of art and music to express cultural and social issues can never be underestimated; more so when it comes to portraying the struggles of communities on social issues. This comes through strongly at the highly regarded Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), hosted in July at Ngome Kongwe (the Old Fort) on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, which has featured African and international film, music, art and design since 1997. For the first time, the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) collaborated with ZIFF, to bring 10 farmers to a screening of Burkinabé Bounty on 10 July at the ZanCinema.

Following on from her previous film, Burkinabé Rising, Iara Lee documents the struggles for food sovereignty in Burkina Faso, where people of varying age, gender and walks of life – including farmers, artists, activists and civil society representatives – come together in a unified social movement to resist corporate control over, and to maintain the identity of, their local traditional and cultural food systems.

In the film, passionate young artists use music and art to shape powerful messages that create awareness of the social and political struggles in Burkina Faso, also drawing from the renowned revolutionist Thomas Sankara.

The farmers who attended the screening come from the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, and belong to the local association of fruit and vegetable farmers, UWAMWIMA, which promotes sustainable production and marketing of organic horticultural products.

Zanzibari farmers are also caught in this current African struggle to resist the encroachment of traditional and local food systems: the challenges of promoting sustainable, ecological farming and organic farming are all too real for them. They spoke about the lack of recognition from government on the benefits of ecological and sustainable agriculture – particularly in the case of fruit and vegetable farming – and the lack of support, in terms of: organic inputs such as seed, extension services, capital, and markets for their products. Rather, there is a strong push for the use of agricultural chemicals and corporate seed.

However, there is a move towards changing the narrative, as civil society and farmers’ organisations on the island begin to collaborate with the Zanzibar government to develop initiatives that recognise and support sustainable ecological and organic farming, through an Organic Vision for the island.

Before the film, Pemba farmer Ali Othman expressed the hope that the group would learn from the struggles in Burkina Faso, particularly on the fight against corporate control. The film did not disappoint, with UWAMWIMA director, and board member of the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), Khamis Mohammed, commenting afterwards that he was inspired by the depiction of resistance against neo-colonialism – in the guise of the ongoing push for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that threaten food and seed systems in Burkina Faso and other African countries.

In Tanzania, the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project pushes for the adoption of GMOs, through ongoing trials of GM maize in the Dodoma Region on the mainland. This poses a threat for Zanzibar, where the majority of the food produced is organic by default.

Mohammed said that resisting corporate control and preserving local and traditional seed is key. Since UWAMWIMA farmers face challenges in accessing organic seed for fruit and vegetables, he thinks it is high time that farmers are empowered to save and preserve their own seed for use in ensuing seasons, thus reducing their dependency on having to buy seed every year. He explained that it is necessary to create awareness so farmers understand the important role they play in the food system.

Other highlights of the film were: the importance placed on agroecology for feeding the world and providing for healthy lifestyles and environments; the value addition of different crops, such as using sorghum to make local beer; the use of various plants like Moringa for medicinal purposes; the role of women in nurturing and caring for families, through farming and the preparation of local traditional cuisine; and the overall promotion of the use of locally produced food and products – and how women, particularly young women, are empowered through gaining economic skills.

Of great interest was also the depiction of the fight against Monsanto/ Bayer’s introduction of GMOs in Burkina Faso, which led to various groups within and outside Burkina Faso organising a march of solidarity against the company and to demand support for agroecology.

The Zanzibar farmers were grateful for this opportunity to attend the screening, as they were able to see the resistance in other parts of the continent to the same threats and issues they are facing. In this video below, some of the farmers share their comments.

For more information on this timely film, please click here.