What you need to know:
- According to them, large-scale agriculture also requires major investments in the form of machinery, grains and seeds meaning that poorer farmers in many African countries are excluded from the advantages of intensive agriculture.
- In March 2018, delegates under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) converged at a high-level UN summit in Rome, Italy, to drum up support for Agroecology in Africa.
A total of 36 civil society organisations (CSOs) in Uganda and across Africa under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) have cancelled their participation in the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) scheduled for September 2021 in New York, USA.
In their May 3 letter, a copy of which this newspaper has seen, which was addressed to Dr Agnes Kalibata, the UN Special Envoy for the summit, AFSA stressed that the summit ignores its sole agenda and that it erodes the hope for an inclusive and democratic summit on food transformation.
“We are deeply concerned that the current rushed, corporate-controlled, unaccountable and opaque process for this summit will not lead to the transformation we envision of sustainable and healthy food systems,” the letter reads.
They further pointed out that the UN through the summit was emphasising agricultural industrialisation, a key contributor to global warming, instead of agroecology.
The CSOs conditioned that a transition to agroecology should be central to any outcomes of the summit based on the 13 principles of agroecology outlined in the High-Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition report on agroecology, if they are to attend.
“The formal UNFSS process should establish an additional track to focus on the transformation of corporate food systems to food sovereignty,” it stated.
Yet Africa remains essentially a continent of smallholder food producers, solutions will only work if they can work for millions of farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous communities, custodians of nature, as well as women and youth in the food system, the CSOs argued.
The CSOs included Friends of the Earth Africa (Uganda), African Centre for Biodiversity, Eastern and Southern Africa Pastoralists Network, World Neighbours, Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity, CICODEV Africa, PROPAC, among others.
Mr Hakim Baliraine, the chairperson of Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (Uganda), said the interest of the convener of the summit was not clear, prompting them to withdraw.
“Indigenous and local community Africans have experience and knowledge relevant to the current and future food system and any process or outcome that does not recognise this is an affront to millions of African food producers and consumers. We cannot be part of it,” Mr Baliraine said
Once farmers use the model correctly, they can increase their yields and ensure their food supply while preserving biodiversity and reducing their impact on the climate and soil depletion, advocates for agroecology believe.
Whereas agroecology sets the interests of farmers in opposition to colonial agribusinesses, a crop scientist recently warned that agroecology does not work for farmers not only in Uganda but across Africa.
In a study titled: Why agroecology is a dead-end for Africa, Mr Nassib Mugwanya, a researcher attached to National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge, noted that agroecology was out of step with the reality of African agriculture.
“Agroecology in its contemporary usage is fundamentally a reaction against agricultural modernisation. The practices it promotes are at best refinement of those that keep African farmers confined to poverty,” he stated in the report.
Meanwhile, Agroecology proponents argue that today’s intensive large-scale agriculture brings a major environmental impact in the form of soil depletion, high use of pesticides, high energy and water consumption and reduced biodiversity.
According to them, large-scale agriculture also requires major investments in the form of machinery, grains and seeds meaning that poorer farmers in many African countries are excluded from the advantages of intensive agriculture.
But Mr Mugwanya in the report stated that evidence for such sweeping claims were limited to isolated proof-of-concept case studies that provided no direct comparison with conventional production.
“The ongoing advocacy for an agro ecological revolution in Africa is quite vocal on how the model puts farmers at the centre of the food system but silent on how it can practically get them out of poverty,” Mr Mugwanya said.
Whatever the problems and limitations of modern agriculture may be, dogmatic adherence to a model-based fundamentally on traditional farming is not the answer, he argued.
Agroecology. In March 2018, delegates under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) converged at a high-level UN summit in Rome, Italy, to drum up support for Agroecology in Africa.
They (delegates) called for a complete transition to agroecology, saying it offers a huge potential to feed the continent, to lift those in need out of poverty as well as improve the environment.
“It is a better alternative than large-scale agriculture, both for the climate and for small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa since it preserves biodiversity and safeguards food supply while avoiding soil depletion,” a statement signed by the delegates read.
On one end, at the heart of agroecology is the conviction that modern agriculture, with its reliance on monoculture and external inputs, is intrinsically bad for the environment. The 2021 UN Food Systems Summit is aimed to help stakeholders and leaders of transformation initiatives understand and manage the complex choices that affect the future of food systems and accelerate progress toward sustainable development goals.