Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Food Insecurity in Africa. A man made Famine?

“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser” read the Albert Einstein quote brought to twitter by Calestous Juma who participated remotely often giving his thoughts on the ever elusive discussion on food security in Africa . 

Africa has been a recipient of many interventions aimed at improving the status of food security and while some of them have worked,  hunger remains a reality for many people in the continent.
In trying to understand the lurking issues in food security and how they can be solved,  Society for International Development (SID) with support from Rockefeller  brought together in Nairobi's Fairmount The Norfolk, experts from all over Africa to take part in a two day  dialogue, June 12th -13th 2013  dubbed Rethinking Food security in Africa: New paradigms, New approaches with an aim of promoting  reflecting and bringing  forth conversations on the seemingly elusive challenge of attaining food security in the continent. 

Key note address
Stephano prato giving his keynote address
In his opening remarks, The SID managing director, Stephano Prato welcomed the participants and highlighted the role of SID in creating an open space to facilitate dialogue around the issue of food security while acknowledging the role Rockefeller plays in devising innovative solutions to ensure food security in Africa. 
He noted that for Africa to achieve the goal of food security, three initiatives needed to interplay. The need to unpack the narrative of growth in the area of food security to highlight whats working and for who, bringing forth the equity and inclusiveness of growth,and increasing our focus on Climate change and its effect on the growth and development in Africa.

Mwihaki Kimura from Rockerfeller foundation also highlighted on the role the foundation plays in  food security quoting their recent initiative of innovation for the next 100 years where they  provide the resources, networks and technologies needed to move innovation from idea to impact. Find more about it (here)

 "As the AU celebrates 50 years of panafricanism, Africa continues not be able to feed itself as food security issues are never given a priority.Political Issues the likes of ICC seem to dominate the table more and more and not those of how Africa can feed itself" Noted Mr Ali Hersi as he paved way for the discussions by introducing the round Table conversation

Session 1:Africa's Food security Dilemma: Moving beyond good intentions
The conversation brought together the thoughts of four speakers on why the conversation around the issue of food security are still at the table with endless dialogues around the same. These speakers were: Dr Abdirizak Nunow (University of Eldoret) Mr MagodeIkuya (Molo Integrated Agro-Farming Initiative Uganda), Mr Gershon Nzuva (Past Chairman Central Agricultural Board) and Adetola Okunlola (Institute of Poverty, Land & Agrarian Studies PLAAS).

Some of the key points raised include:
  • Undeveloped Infrastructure:  Availability of food might be there in one area but accessibility to the same might be lacking in another area.
  • Misplaced priorities:Land is leased to multinational organizations who grow non food crops and if they do grow food crops, they are exported back to their countries. Countries focus on export crops(flowers, fruits, cash-crops) and forget to feed themselves . Take another example where "A golf course pays more than using the same land to grow millet" 
  • Land grabbing:There is also evidence of massive land grabbing incidences in Africa and the state does little about the same.
  • Sectoral approach to agriculture instead of a national approach which at times gives precedence on the crop production part and not the livestock production part.
  • Mental migration of youth who would rather be idle than engage in farming activities due to the western mentality of farming being a poor man's profession.
  • Adverse effects of climate change which are rather "tribalistc" and "angry". It rains in one area and not in another and at times the rain washes away all surface soil leaving it bare and infertile.
  • Politics on agricultural policies taking precedence over food security.Politicians  in Africa make food security policies to suit their terms of office or help them get re-elected for another term of office. As a result,the policies put into place if any are short term which at times leaders use to their advantage to stay on power.
  • Lack of linkages between  rural economies with the national economies. All we ever talk about is the global economy. 
From the discussions, it was evident that we need to go beyond the good intentions that many private sectors bring to the fore.But,how do we go about it?

Recommendations from the panel
  • Formalisation of contract farming and introduction of urban and Peri-urban farming
  • Conservation of water bodies by restricting cultivation along the water bodies.Early warning and information systems on weather patterns systems
  • 'Feed ourselves before exporting" notion needs to come in play.
  • Capitalization of the agricultural sector before commercialization of the same.Capitalavailability is a vital factor in the farming arena.
  • Involvement of farmers and all party players in the policy formulation process for better impact
  • Develop farmer friendly and women friendly technologies for farming. Women produce 70% of the food in Africa
  • Need to "glocalise" our thinking, Think globally, but Act locally 

Session 2:Ideology and Food Security
The session constituting of Mr Situma Mwichabe(SID), Dr Alex Awiti(Director East African Institute of the Aghakhan University) and Oby Obyerodhianbo(Strategic communications Advisor at Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, PATH) sought to seek whether Africa had an ideological commitment towards food security.

Situma Mwichabe presenting his paper
Presenting his thought provoking paper on "Ideology and food security in Africa" Situma Mwichabe defined ideology as a system of peoples' beliefs, mindsets, practices & philosophies that acts as guiding stars and inspires them towards reaching certain targets. 

From the discussions, it was evident that:
  • Africa has no ideological commitment to food security but rather has mandated the UN,NGOs, World Bank,FAO of the UN, AGRA, Academia to carry forward the agenda of food security. These players happen to be drivers of green revolution agrarian ideology in Africa but not  farming communities per se.
  • The African leadership has no political will  in defining the necessary ideology to tackle food security. For instance, African Development Bank  has allocated to Africa close to  US $4-6 billion a year  for the last 40 years to develop the agricultural sector and still the continent is going angry. Where is the money? What is evident for us to see in the area of food security? Is money the ultimate goal among these leaders.
  • The African people have a mindset too that prevents them from making progress in the area of food security. For instance, the notion among some African communities that red millet doesn't fill the stomach hence no need to cultivate it. 
  • Farmers in the  in Sub Saharan Africa are so content with the status quo. They seem content with selling their produce in raw form at either farm gates or along the road side.
  • Africa might be lacking the philosophical mindset necessary to effect change. Political arena  had Karl Max, Christianity had Jesus. A new breed of thought leaders is needed to shape Africa's food security ideology
  • Africans have mastered the art of outsourcing the responsibility of their problems to development partners and neo colonialism. Farmers have a tendency of  expecting the govt and NGO's to sort out the menace of food security. Or another scenario where women groups in Sub Saharan Africa being content with projects of 200 birds per group of 20 women over 10 years.
  • Valuing life and dignity go hand in hand with  food security. Africans  are less concerned about the number of people that die of disease and hunger because if they were, food security would be an initiative of all
 “Does Africa care about it's image? Do we care about our dignity as Africans? Or are we comfortable with what is out there? Are we okay with the pictures that come out of Africa with hungry children whose ribs are like guitar strings? Because if we did care about that the world perceives of us, then we would do something about it.”
 Oby Obyrierodhiambo via Ruth Aine.

Recommendations from the panel

  • Countries need to play with their competitive advantage. The Gulf States are food secure by wholly depending on their oil. Israel on the other hand has placed all its resources on agricultural research to ensure the food security goal is realized.
  • There is need to empower farmers to help shift their dependency syndrome and teach them how to  seek solutions to their own problem. This can be through the creation of role models whom they can look up to vis a vis creating enabling environment for their farming.
  • Conversations around the issue of food security in Africa must be initiated and framed by Africans and not foreign institutions
  • The government has a role in moderating the private sector involvement in agricultural development
  • We need to consolidate a shared vision of what we want as Africa. That is the vision that will then shape our ideologies.
  • We need to mobilize our internal  finances and not leave this task to the World Bank and Food Agricultural Organization.
  • We need to set , know and internalize a continental agrarian ideology and not only build but support a Pan African consensus around this ideology
  • We need to educate societies about our ideology and ensure the masses are angry at the status quo.
The question remains, whose responsibility is it to develop the ideology?

Session 3: Technology and food security

Dr Paul holding one of his  improved cassava variety
The session which was led by Dr Nicholas Ozor(African Centre for Technology and Policy studies) and respondents Dr Paul Seward( Director Farm Inputs Promotion Africa) and Dr Hannington Odame(Director Center for African Bio-Entrepreneurship) sought to bring to fore a discussion on technologies that have succeeded in Africa and those that have failed.

Various technologies, mechanical, biotechnology, biological and indigenous have to interplay for food security to be a realizable goal in Africa.Mechanical technology involves the use of simple traditional hand tools and animal and engine powered equipment during the farming process.Biological technology on the other hand refers to the use of high yielding varieties of inputs like seeds and fertilizers while Biotechnology and nanotechnology refers to the use of commercially acceptable techniques to make/modify products using living organisms.

Nevertheless, various challenges have prevented the adoption of these technologies hence resulting to lower productivity per hectare. These challenges include but are not limited to:

  •  Most countries are lacking policies on biotechnology and bio-safety laws hence its not easy to identify what technology is harmful and what is useful to the people. More so, there is  poor implementation of existing ones and coercion of multinationals to local governments to soften the existing  local countries bio safety laws. A case of Monsanto to the Tanzanian government was quoted.
  • The continued  fragmentation of land in Africa renders mechanization impossible.We have numerous farmers, in diverse ecological zones cultivating tiny pieces of land.
  • Preference for  taste of food has prevented farmers from adopting new/high yielding varieties.For instance when eating Pap, farmers prefer the organic varieties because of quantity, and yet the improved variety has better quality.
  • Volatility of food prices, poor infrastructure and weak agricultural systems that doesn't deliver research to farmers effectively.
  • Peoples attitude and culture where land ownership belongs to the man only. Also some arable fertile lands for instance in Nigeria are wholly dedicated to gods
  • Presence of conflicts derails tech adoption.Food security is both a cause and effect of conflict. Each triggers and reinforces the other. 
  • Lack of biodiversity patent rights policies  in many African countries
  • Unbalanced demand and supply of technology
Recommendations from the Panel

  • Indigenous knowledge and technology backed up with necessary policy frameworks have the potential to ensure food security.They all need to interplay.
  • There is need to integrate crops and animal farming. 
  • Developing a targeted approach to inputs assistance instead of blankets interventions goes a long way in ensuring food security.
  • Integrating in agricultural extension and policies the benefits costs and risks of these technology interventions.
  • There is need to stress on post harvest technology which has the potential to give farmers a competitive advantage in the market.

Session 4:The African Farmer

Dr Abdullahi Khallif presenting on The African Farmer
The session consisted of Dr Abdullahi Khalif(Country representative FEWSNET Somalia), Dr Julius Gatune(African center for Economic Transformation), Adetola Okonlola(PLAAS) and Dr Dawit Alemu(Director Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural research)

Presenting his paper on the African farmer, Dr Abdullahi sought to examine the role of the African farmers in reducing food insecurity, the challenges they face and their potential in feeding the continent.

Results of the discussions

  • Africa possesses cultivators/herders and not farmers and they don't have the mindset to realize that farming is a business. The average farm size for a subsistence farmer is estimated at 204 hectares and 69% of these farmers cultivate less than 2 hectares.
  • The African farmers cannot really feed the continent.They are to a significant portion susceptible to climate variability and have to their disposal  unfavorable ill advised policies which ensures they remain cultivators/herders and not real farmers.
Recommendations from the panel
  • There is a greater need to develop Integrated large scale farming , farm inputs, market linkages and infrastructure if the African farmer is to feed the continent.
  • Crops and animal husbandry has to be prioritized if food security has to be achieved. This move will see the 79% of the uncultivated land in Africa utilized. 
  • The African farmer needs to a change of mindset to enable him see farming as a business and not a subsistence activity. To enable this, he needs to be empowered financially via access to credit, technology adoption through proper and targeted extension services provision.
  • As we look in to the commercialization of the african farmer, there is need to also strengthen their informal markets by linking them to the regional trade markets.
  •   Govt expenditure in agriculture in the national budget is 6% of the total budget since 1980 in Sub Saharan Africa. There is need for more government commitment especially in the policy and funding area.
  •  In search of the African farmer, we are so homogeneous .This is a narrative in need of change

 Tweet of the day

 When we talk of #Foodsecurity, we talk of food, and when we talk of food, we talk of politics~Dr Khalif #FAS2013
-Emmie Kio @emmiewakio June 12,2013

 Check out the storify tweets from DAY 1 Here

The day began with a recap of the previous sessions under the facilitation of Arthur Muliro of SID who set the discussion  ball rolling and was quick to chip in his thoughts concerning the already discussed sessions.

"We always talk about these things and when we leave, there is no action done. We need to go beyond the rhetoric " he asserted before paving way for the round table conversation on gender.

Session 5: Integrating gender issues in food security. Going beyond the rhetoric.

The round table conversation constituted of Okumba miruka(Independent consultant), Ester Mwaura-Muiru( Founder GROOTS Kenya) and Elias Mutinda (Agriculture and Food security Advisor, Action Aid Tanzania)

Kicking off the session, Okumba Miruka brought to the audience attention a "Man made famine "film that was made in 1995 on the event of the decade of women. From the film, the challenges women faced then are so fresh and relates to them today. They have no access and control to land. Most of it is in the hands of their husbands who make decisions on how its to be used. At some point in the film, the women are forced to clear their maize crops and instead plant sugarcane. The weeding of the cane is left to them as traditions do not allow men to help women and when the proceeds of the sugarcane sell comes in,the man gets paid.

"When the men have the money, all they think of is beer and prostitutes" Asserts a woman from the film.

As Sichabe pointed out in the ideology discussion  this is one film that angers many in the room and brings forth a heated discussion

The results of the discussion

  • Women in Africa are not recognized as the real farmers , and owners of the land and yet they do most of the agricultural work.
  • Culture is a major impediment on women contributing to food security. There is the existence of a culture in Africa that food has to be produced by women.
  • Women have no say in the decision making process at the household level.
  • Lack of time for agricultural activities is one of the hindrances to food production. Women spend more time doing household chores.
  • Religion is also another obstacle facing women in farming. Women aren't supposed to work during religious festivals
Recommendations from the panelists
  • Gender planning is paramount. Analysis has shown that female headed households are more food insecure compared to male headed households.
  • Food security should come first before market security. The notion of feed thy household first before feeding others need to be reinforced.
  • Women empowerment programs need to be reinforced first so that women know their rights and have an avenue to make decisions for themselves. Elias mutinda stated of how representation of women in farmers organization in Tanzania is limited.  Action Aid Tanzania helps empower women to know their rights and hold the state accountable for the same especially on the issues surrounding land.
  • Target approach. There is need to identify which type of women we are talking about if we are to necessitate change. Ester Mwaura suggested the registering of land titles to family names instead of individual names to ensure agricultural productivity continuity even if a main member of the family pass away
  • New insights to things.Ester Mwaura explored innovations like Multi storey gardening that ensure women maximize productivity in limited lands. 
  • The micro-financing model to women is no gooder to them. They need to be in the FINANCING model
Do you agree with Dr Oby?

Session 6:Youth Education and Farming

The session constituted Katindi Sivi(Program Director SID East Africa) and respondents Moses Mutungi (Farm Concern International),Olawale Ojo (Agroprenuer Naija) and  Emmie Kio (Young Professionals in Agricultural Research for Development)

Katindi Sivi on behalf of Dr Cream Wright presented a paper "Youth and the challenge of food security in Africa" which argues that food food security to be a realizable goal, there is a need to cultivate a new breed of practitioners  for sustainable progress and proposes innovative career patterns for young people.

Later on Olawale shared his experiences as a young agroprenuer in Nigeria.He emphasized on the practicality of the agriculture lessons in schools as learning by action holds more water. He wowed the crowd with the video below made by Massey Ferguson as an initiative to lure youth in agriculture.Its titled " Youth in Agriculture for a new generation of farmers"

Emmie shared her urban farming experience and explained the role of YPARD in bringing forth a voice in the agricultural research development arena.Moses on the other hand shared the works of Farm international in building the capacity of the youths by provision of incubators through the "kuku houses" project.

The session turned out to be the most heated one and brought to fore many issues affecting youth participation in agriculture.

The results of the discussion

  • There is an existent mindset that agriculture is a poor man's profession.Not many people are willing to guide their children to take agriculture related careers and if they try, the children objects to the idea.
  • Agriculture happens to be viewed as the bitter option by older generation when all other options have failed. This has found its way to the young generation too.
  • Our institutions are also wanting. Majority of the students are given the Agriculture courses at university as last resort after failing to secure any other position.
  • Africa doesn't invest in its youth as most of the leaders are etched on the notion of youth being leaders of tomorrow.


Recommendations from the panelists

  • Creation of a talent academy  sort of  like the ihub to nurture Agriculture start-ups/ innovations.
  • Involve youths at every stage of discussions/meeting and making them stakeholders and not merely afterthoughts of these meetings/conferences.
  • Youth's interest begins at home. Parents need to offer the given support to their children interested to pursue agree- related careers.
  • There is need for more opportunities/mentorship which helps in building the skills and capacity of these young people.
  • There is a need to reshape our institutions as pertains agricultural curriculum. Surprisingly in Kenya agriculture has been scrapped off the high school curriculum.Changing the mindset is a gradual process.
  • Youths wants recognition at every sector in the agricultural chain. They tend to be relegated at the marketing side of agriculture as there is a misconceived perception that they are only interested in the marketing side of agriculture.This came out when in the gender session Ms Mwaura said youth aren't interested in owning land at all. They prefer marketing the produce.

When all is said and done, the responsibility for a food secure Africa lies with each one of us.Remember, it all starts with feeding yourself first, before feeding others! 

Tweet of The Day

#FAS2013 Africans need to define their own theory of change-they understand their problems better.

-Hudson Wereh (@hwereh) June13,2013


Check out storify tweets for Day 2 Here

Find a mini recap of all the sessions on our Tumblr:Africa Dialogue Speaker Series Volume 1 ( HERE)

Photos from the sessions

And here comes the YPARD new-joiners courtesy of  the event

A big thank you to the Organizers,the onsite social reporters and all those who participated remotely and made the event a success!

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