Hunger is on the rise in Africa, making it more difficult for the continent to attain the right to adequate food. Amidst hunger in Africa is an avid reliance on foreign assistance. On 4th June 2022, the African Union chair, Macky Sall,,met with Vladimir Putin to discuss the food shortages in Africa resulting from the war in Ukraine.
Africa has over 300 million food-insecure people and about 60 percent of the world’s unused arable land. The potential for Africa’s food systems to support food rights is massive, but the region does not maximize food resources to cater to the needs of its ever-growing population. Thus regaining control over indigenous food systems could be a symbol of power for Africa. However, Africa needs to know that it can build a sustainable food system without continually relying on unequal foreign aid and food imports.
Africa can achieve freer food systems, by prioritizing food sovereignty. Food sovereignty will enable Africans to produce, distribute, and consume the most socially and environmentally appropriate food in their respective regions. Understanding the organizations and mechanisms controlling food resources can help Africa overcome a looming food crisis.
Presently, food systems in Africa continually take away the ability of farmers to grow and profit off indigenous crops. Thereby affecting farmers' freedom of choice in what to eat and how to eat it. In the pre-colonial era, African farmers cultivated a wide variety of nutritious seeds, and also engaged in a barter system of food trade. The system paved the way for nutrition security then.
However, colonialism came with an emphasis on the cultivation of grains like maize as a staple crop for Africans and as a raw material for export used in the production of biofuels. The effects of this system still linger and affect the agency of African farmers by prolonging the cycle of food insecurity. Farmers remain dependent on the system of cultivating globally acceptable crops to export raw materials while the continent imports much-needed food crops.
Africa also needs to rise above unfavorable trade regulations as well as violence, climate change, a lack of infrastructure, and drought to safeguard food security.
Developing appropriate agro-ecological interventions by region is a vital way out of Africa's food security problem. Such initiatives will highlight the agency and significance of Africa's indigenous farmers, who are the gatekeepers of sustainable agricultural techniques. The initiative will also improve rural African communities' abilities to combat food insecurity.
Food insecurity in Africa also serves as a warning to governments and regulatory agencies to resist indulging in land grabs that disproportionately harm rural African populations. Food and nutrition insecurity in Africa results from a long history of social, economic, and physical disregard for a substantial portion of the population's food rights. When agricultural policies are reorganized to cater to every African at all times, the disparities in the food supply in Africa will be addressed.
Inclusive agricultural policies are paramount to food security. Empowering indigenous women in agriculture is non-negotiable since their participation in agriculture improves the nutritional status of the entire household, particularly children. While smallholder farmers can be given direct control over their farms and food markets, policy initiatives must prioritize female participation. Better market access for female farmers who have traditionally been denied the right to own and use the land for agricultural production must also be promoted.
Changes in the food system that place indigenous smallholder farmers at the center of modern agriculture would help Africa alleviate food poverty. To avoid exporting Africa's wealth to foreign manufacturers, the agricultural manufacturing sector must be strengthened to accommodate African farmers' production operations.
Rather than corporate industrialization, agricultural industrialization in Africa should focus on grassroots integration of industrial activities to support food sovereignty. The support will allow infrastructural development and automating of agricultural activities of smallholder farmers to close the technology gap.
Feeding Africa necessitates the participation of every African and should go beyond seeking foreign assistance. Governments across Africa must unite to preserve people's right to food.
Anna Suberu is a writing fellow at the African Liberty, with works centered on food and development in Africa. She tweets at @anna_suberu