Food Security through Agroecology in Africa

The impact of climate change is a threat to food security around the world. The global state of food insecurity is the biggest motivating factor on why we should apply a paradigm shift to our agriculture. Extreme weather conditions and the overall effect of climate change is certainly a pressing reality which should push all of us to adapt and employ mitigation strategies in agriculture. Simultaneously, our global population is speedily increasing, stretching agricultural production from our already limited natural resources.

In Africa, the Corporate Development Model has totally distorted the whole development agenda for Agriculture as mentioned by Ian Fitzpatrick. In order to promote the welfare of the small scale farmers and Indigenous Peoples in Africa, there is an in dire need for a human development model that provides its communities with the opportunity to continue to live on their lands and employ self-determination on how they are going to use their natural resources.

However, this is not the case in Africa as the grassroots people comprising of the small scale farmers, the women, and Indigenous peoples do not have the power over their lands. According to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, failure to recognize and respect indigenous customary land tenure is a form of racial discrimination incompatible with the Convention.

The Committee has called upon states

“to recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources and, where they have been deprived of their lands and territories traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used without their free and informed consent, to take steps to return those lands and territories”.

Sadly, however, multinational corporations, aided by the governments, are vying to increase their control of land, seeds, markets and labor in Africa. Donors, development agencies and multilateral financial initiatives continue to push a one-size-fits-all industrial model of agriculture. defines Sustainable development as:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

• the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
• the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

Consequently, Sustainable Development is all about protecting Mother Earth to support life in all its diversity. This model of development should be founded on the principles of democracy, gender equality, solidarity, the rule of law and respect for fundamental right, including the freedom and equal opportunity for all. It aims at the continuous improvement of the quality of life and well-being on Earth for present and future generations. To that end it promotes a dynamic economy with full employment and a high level of education, health protection, social and territorial cohesion and environmental protection in a peaceful and secure world, respecting cultural diversity.

farmer and cattle in Ethiopia

Agroecology and Climate Change

Around the world, an emerging issue that challenges everyone is climate change. We have seen the devastation wrought to people’s lives, properties and infrastructures. Sadly, the most affected by the impact of climate change are the poor farmers, fishermen, women, children and Indigenous Peoples. In fact, reports that East Africa is currently experiencing the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years. The UN has officially declared famine in parts of southern Somalia—regions of Lower Shabelle and southern Bakool. It is predicted that the entire south of Somalia will face famine within the next two months. Operation USA is working to assess unmet needs on the ground, with its initial response focusing on water resource needs in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps. The Dadaab camps–the largest in the world–are reported to receive as many as 1,300 refugees a day, the majority fleeing war-torn Somalia. These camps house almost 400,000 displaced people in three camps originally designated for 90,000.

In protecting the people’s lands and source of livelihoods, the people shall institutionalize measures or mechanisms to prevent or mitigate any environmental disaster in the future. A basic human right is the right to life. Organizations shall ensure everyone enjoys this right not only in their community but also in the region, the country and the world.

Sustainable development does not need to be expensive and it doesn’t require costly conventional farming strategies. Agroecology is based on enhancing agricultural production methods through knowledge intensive systems based on farmer’s knowledge and experiences. It is not a top-down system, but bottom-up – deriving knowledge from the grassroots. Successful techniques are then shared through grassroots organisations and horizontal networks, ensuring successful, cost-effective dissemination of innovative and sustainable methods.

Nonetheless, in spite of the severe impact of climate change, the government, development agencies, policy makers and funders are still determined on large-scale, high-input solutions which marginalize the people from the grassroots. Likewise, these highly industrialised and chemical based agriculture continues to degrade the environment.

The marginalized small scale farmers, the poor constituents from the grassroots, and the Indigenous Peoples do not have the capability to shield themselves from Corporate Power. The significant economic and political bias in favour of large-scale industrial agriculture is so evident in the current system.

Sadly, land ownership is another painful struggle. In Africa, the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ land right is at the core of their struggle. The centrality of land to indigenous people’s in Africa stems from the fact that they rely on traditional lands and natural resources for their livelihood and economic sustenance, as well as their religious and cultural life. Indigenous people’s rights over land and natural resources flow not only from possession, but also from their articulated ideas of communal stewardship over land and a deeply felt spiritual and emotional nexus with the earth and its fruits. The rights to access, control, utilize and own traditional lands and natural resources are therefore critical to the survival of indigenous peoples all over the world.

Malagasy couple and zebu cart

Food Sovereignty

Around the world, peasant organisations, pastoralists, fisher folk, indigenous peoples, women and civil society groups are forming a movement for food sovereignty which allows communities control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed. Food sovereignty, therefore, provides the framework within which agroecological systems and techniques should be developed.

Food sovereignty is defined as the right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, and economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies.

Six pillars of food sovereignty

As discussed by, the following are the six pillars of food sovereignty:

1. Focuses on food for people: The right to food which is healthy and culturally appropriate is the basic legal demand underpinning food sovereignty. Food is not simply another commodity to be traded or speculated on for profit.

2. Values food providers: Food sovereignty asserts food providers’ right to live and work in dignity.

3. Localises food systems: Under food sovereignty, local and regional provision takes precedence over supplying distant markets, and export orientated agriculture is rejected.

4. Puts control locally: Food sovereignty places control over territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations on local food providers and respects their rights. Privatisation of such resources, for example, through intellectual property rights regimes or commercial contracts, is explicitly rejected.

5. Builds knowledge and skills: Technologies, such as genetic engineering, that undermine food providers’ ability to develop and pass on knowledge and skills needed for localised food systems are rejected. Instead, food sovereignty calls for appropriate research systems to support the development of agricultural knowledge and skills.

6. Works with nature: Food sovereignty requires production and distribution systems that protect natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, avoiding energy-intensive industrial methods that damage the environment and the health of those that inhabit it

To address poverty and the impact of climate change, an agricultural reform should be adopted which accepts a food sovereignty based approach. This powerful strategy confirms the importance of the grassroots who are buried in poverty and deeply affected by the impact of climate change. This also recognizes the people’s human rights which should be the center for developing agriculture laws, policies and programs. The emphasis of the agricultural development in Africa should be changed from the top to bottom, meaning from the international to the local. Soil carbon markets should be rejected as well to pave way to Agroecology.

Likewise, agriculture adaptation approaches should take into account food consumption patterns such as waste and excessive consumption must be addressed as well as increasing food production to meet the needs of our ever increasing population.

Certainly, the shift from industrial agriculture to Agroecology will sustain Africa for many generations to come. The only route to achieving sustainable development that equally benefits the people and the government is to recognize the importance of small scale food producers using Agroecology. In this way, sustainable food production for the people can be achieve while incorporating climate change adaptation strategies.


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