Tuesday, November 10, 2020
We, members of a broad alliance of civil society and faith-based organisations across Africa, take this opportunity to voice our concerns and recommendations towards the upcoming EU-AU Summit. African civil society has been following recent EU-driven processes including the 2019 Task Force Rural Africa – An Africa-Europe Agenda for Rural Transformation (TFRA), the AU EU Agriculture Ministerial Conference and the EU’s proposed Strategy with Africa. [AEFJN]
African civil society participated in the consultations around TFRA, on one hand broadly welcoming progressive aspects such as the recognition that the rural economy is the driver of poverty reduction, the shift in emphasis towards family farming, Africa’s huge diversity and consequent need for context-specific locally driven solutions, and the adoption of a food systems approach. On the other hand, concerns were raised about the failure to address the big issues facing Africa, primarily the corporate capture of food systems, and the damage this is doing to our environment, our soils, lands and water, our biodiversity, our nutrition and health.
A year later, the 2020 EU Strategy with Africa seems to have lost touch with this agenda altogether, failing to address agriculture and food systems but rather concentrating on creating a conducive environment for large scale private sector business interests. While the stated aim is to “build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all”, the five proposed partnerships on energy, digitalisation, inward investment, peace and migration are largely silent on the needs of the >60% of African households who depend upon family farming and small-scale food production for their livelihoods.
While smallholder farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fisherfolk and forest communities dominate the demographics of rural Africa, the policy spaces are crowded by external actors: philanthropists, businesses, multilateral and bilateral aid agencies. As a result, most countries across the continent have been induced – often by Northern initiatives based on private investment and public private partnerships – to subsidise an external-input based, export-oriented, commodity monocrop model of agricultural development, and to rely heavily on the transfer of land for timber, oil, gas and mineral exploitation to generate foreign exchange, often without or despite environmental impact assessment. Internal rates of return trump true cost accounting as the social and environmental impacts are externalised. Africa’s rainforests, earth’s second lungs, surrender their riches while the price of forest carbon is negotiated in World Bank and IMF boardrooms. Most of the dispossession involves peasant owned ‘communal’ lands, putting African food systems at risk of complete collapse. FAO’s 2020 Africa food security report finds that 256 million people remain hungry in Africa, with rural women -the main producers of food- the poorest and least well nourished.
Land and agriculture are viewed differently in Africa and cannot be treated the same as in Europe. For the 60% of Africans who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, land is neither a commodity nor an individual possession; it is a gift from God and our ancestors. For Africans, land determines our identity as human beings, our dignity, our sense of belonging, In Africa, food is a basic human right, not a commodity in the hands of a select few who determine prices through their food industries. Food defines our culture and heritage: a source of nutrition and health, a medicine, a ritual, a celebration.
In Africa, like much of the global south, agriculture is a mainstay of the economy and provides a livelihood and living space for the majority of its people. Agriculture is an important entry point for interventions that can potentially deliver an array of benefits, including improved food and nutrition security, environmental benefits and resilience to climate change. Agriculture also plays an important role in community cohesion and culture. The way that agriculture is considered through policy, funding and implementation has a profound impact on the economy, food systems, nutrition, social justice and the environment. We call upon European and African policymakers to enshrine the following imperatives in EU-AU strategy development:
*Note on Agroecology
Agroecology is an integrative discipline that recognises the relationship between plants, animals, humans and the environment – the ecology of food systems. The European Commission’s Knowledge Centre on Global Food and Nutrition Security recognises that agroecology can play a key role in enhancing resilience and illustrates the interlinks between agroecology and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, citing the 13 principles of agroecology developed by the HLPE 2019 report on Agroecology and other innovations. Agroecology provides a transformative set of principles that farmers apply at any scale to reboot the land’s ecosystem to make it work efficiently and self-sufficiently. The High Level Panel of Experts of the UNCFS have shown that agroecological approaches are superior to others in terms of food and nutrition security. An analysis of 50 case studies of agroecology in Africa showed their strong contribution to meeting the ambition of the SDGs, with increased access to safe and nutritious food, higher productivity and incomes, sustainable production systems, and increased biodiversity.
 In this paper the term ‘agriculture’ is used to encompass pastoralism, fishing, wild harvest, hunting and communal use and management of natural resources and ecosystems (wetlands, forests, savannahs etc.)
 https://www.cidse.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/CIDSE-Submission-Feb-28.pdf Also see RECOWA, 2020, Message des Eveques Membres du 8eme Conseil Permanent