Tuesday, September 15, 2020
While the world continues to count its economic losses, the death tolls, destabilized global health apparatus as a result of the pandemic, AEFJN has been looking at the negative impacts of the globalized food system on Africa in the journey to the new normal. An element of just recovery for Africa is a change in the global food system that will ensure her secured food supply system.  As far as food crisis is concerned in the Post COVID-19 recovery, Africa sits on a keg of dangerous gun powder. (...)

Covid-19 Pandemic: Engaging Africa’s Food Sovereingty

Question in the “new normal”

I still vividly remember Le Chartelier’s Principle. I first met it in my junior secondary school days, in a subject called Integrated Science. The principle describes what happens in a chemical system that is in an overall balanced state called equilibrium. According to this principle, a system always aims at a state of balance. However, if any of the conditions which helps it to maintain its equilibrium changes, the chemical system as a whole will adjust itself to achieve a new state of equilibrium. This simple observation is generally true for different large systems, such as thermodynamic systems, the ecosystem, biological, social, family, health and even the so-called ‘economic system’. Global warming, for example, can generally be understood in this sense as the adjustments of the ecosystem to achieve a new equilibrium. The equilibrium shift is occasioned by the depletion of its natural resources when it lacks the corresponding capacity to regenerate the resources.  Certainly, the attainment of the new state of equilibrium comes with a high cost as we have seen in the global struggle to combat climate change. However, the continuous demand for adjustments or rather constant changes to accommodate new realities is always well received for the survival of different species except humans. It is therefore; not surprising that human history is an avalanche of crises of different shades and has put the human community on an elusive search for a sustainable peace.

So far, the wide and divergent ranges of national responses to the current COVID-19 pandemic have revealed more fault-lines in the widely acknowledged dysfunctional global human community. With countries of the global north now re-opening their shut down economies, the attainment of new equilibrium of life or rather the new normal is at the center of global post COVID-19 conversations. There are calls from Civil Society for a Post COVID-19 just recovery but what constitutes “just” remains contextual. While the world continues to count its economic losses, the death tolls, destabilized global health apparatus as a result of the pandemic, AEFJN has been looking at the negative impacts of the globalized food system on Africa in the journey to the new normal. An element of just recovery for Africa is a change in the global food system that will ensure her secured food supply system.  As far as food crisis is concerned in the Post COVID-19 recovery, Africa sits on a keg of dangerous gun powder. This concern is not about how to mitigate the impending African food crisis with food aids, but a call to make the systemic adjustment that must put Africa on the path of her food sovereignty and food chain resilience in the new normal. In a pandemic like COVID-19, being able to grow and supply your food is key to your survival. More than anything else, the capacity to grow and provide your food gives you a sense of being in charge of your destiny.

With the ban on flights due to the pandemic, the freighting food from one region of the world to the other was suddenly put on hold. Now, countries or at least regions have to eat what they produce and the fate of the countries that depend on the external supplies for their food items or food aids became precarious. It is against that background that AEFJN sees the review of the globalized food system as an urgent need in the Post COVID-19 recovery. Africa must be the arrowhead of her food sovereignty and break loose of the coerced globalized food system. What is needed today in Africa to achieve this feat is the kind of uncompromising attitude demonstrated by President Andry Rajoeline of Madagascar. Against many odds, he stuck to his belief in himself and the intelligence and capacity of Africa to take her destiny in her hands. While we do not subscribe to the use of clinically uncertified solutions as remedies for COVI-19, we consider the outright disregard of his claims by the international community derogatory, condemnable and a perpetuation of the mentality that salvation must come from Europe or America. Instead of casting aspersion on Rajoeline, he should be commended for championing the rarely taken course of African mental emancipation in a time of global crisis.

Africa has the most arable land on earth with a rich tropical climate. It has the potential to feed herself and have excess to share with the global human community. However, it is this mindset of autonomy that is needed to turn the enormous potential of Africa’s food sovereignty into a reality. Africa does not need the approval of the Western world to promote its food system. Amid anticipation of a more sustainable new normal, Africa must pursue more vigorously food sovereignty and food supply system that work for her.  Why must Africa’s food system be guided by the globalist agenda of mass production, driven by the extension of profit margins?

For emphasis, food sovereignty goes beyond ensuring a steady food supply system that is resilient to shocks such as the current pandemic. The food system must be environmental friendly and also preserve the diverse forest and food types that are fast disappearing to industrial plantations. A sustainable food sovereignty scheme in the new normal must preserve Africa’s seeds, agricultural lands, forests and water. It must protect and support the services of local farmers and ensure regional food supply chains. As a matter of urgency, Africa must wake up to the reality of her food sovereignty in the new normal. There is no better time to re-engage Africa’s food sovereignty question than now critically; the global plan for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will make that point amply clear in the coming months.

Chika Onyejiuwa

AEFJN