About the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa
AFSA brings together small-scale food producers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, farmers’ networks, faith groups, consumer associations, youth associations, civil societies and activists from across the African continent to create a united and louder voice for food sovereignty.
It is a network of networks, currently with 37 members operating in 50 countries of Africa.
Message from the Chair
We had a brilliant year in 2018. So many great achievements and memories that will last. We must continue to celebrate victories (no matter how small) and to salute the courage, resilience, and dogged determination of our comrades who continue to fight and challenge the rogue system and paradigm.
Moments of Validation
We remember with delight that the South African government rejected Monsanto’s triple stacked GM drought tolerant maize. The Tanzanian Government ordered the discontinuation of Monsanto/Gates’ GMO trials and the destruction of remnants of GM materials. The Ugandan Parliament passed a GMO Act providing Strict Liability protection. We look to the future with excitement, for more victories and greater accomplishments. I am extremely pleased to be able to say that we are well on our way.
Red Alerts & Alarming Signals
Challenges are mounting, but I can confidently say that more of our groups are riding on the food and environmental justice tracks more firmly than ever before. And they are resolute! Nevertheless, it is distressing to note that our dear African continent is gradually becoming an experimental field and a playground for untested technologies: the release of GM mosquitos in Burkina Faso, field-testing of transgenic cassava in Nigeria, the rise in synthetic biology, gene drives and CRISPR-Cas9. A shocking development is that many African countries have become advocates of gene drives probably with the hope of attracting grants and other pecuniary benefits to their governments.
We could not have wished for a better moment to intensify our efforts to provoke change by linking hands with the mass of our people. Like it or not, anger, discontent and extreme pressures are catalysts for action – or numbness and inaction. We have to find a way to harness our knowledge to effectively respond to not just regional but global challenges, while meeting social needs. Overcoming technocratic knowledge that is ethically blind. Propagating knowledge that builds alternative or sustainable futures. Moving away from toxic technologies that create problems and yet offer no solutions.
We will continue to find new ways to live our mission, educate and advance our work by Strategic Planning, Resilience, Reflectivity, Relevance and Resonance.
We will not give up and we will not give in. We are the Solution! We are the People! People Power! We have the Knowledge! Knowledge that is embedded in our cultures and in history. They should NOT impose it on us from the outside. Let’s keep learning and sharing and dismantling corporate power!
Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje, Chairperson
Reflections from the Coordinator
After months of organising and preparation, I was hugely relieved that the Food Systems Conference in November 2018 was over and both the board meeting and the AGM that we had before and after the conference went really well. My body and my mind were exhausted after long meetings and sleepless nights, but my spirit was so high. I was asking myself, Are we contributing to change for a better Africa? Was all the work worth it? If we were contributing to change, What was the contribution of 2018 to that change?
We are contributing to the spread of agroecology, both as a concept and as a practice, in Africa. AFSA’s publications and members’ participation in various forums are becoming a rich source of information. This is exemplified in the growing use of the word ‘agroecology’ in documents on African agriculture and in meetings mushrooming in Africa about it. We have now only one country, Senegal, adopting agroecology as a strategy but I feel that will change in the near future as more and more countries will join both through the pressure coming from other policy actors, including FAO, and from inside Africa.
We see the movement growing as more and more networks are coming to join AFSA. We are now the largest network of networks in Africa. Our members work in 50 out of the 55 African countries. AFSA is becoming an authority on agroecology and the level of invitation for speaking and demand for our publications is exploding. One funder, funding a range of organizations in Africa, has told me recently that she does not know any other network in Africa which publishes as AFSA does.
What are the reasons for AFSA’s continuous progress, one may ask? I have the following three reasons.
• Clarity: AFSA members have met every year since their first foundational meeting in 2008. These yearly meetings were instrumental in building a close relationship among members as well as clarifying issues to focus on. These continuous reflections on our actions and achievements have created clarity in our vision and mission.
• Openness: The Food Systems Conference that we had in 2018 was facilitated through art. This was a huge gamble for AFSA but we succeeded in having a lively, productive and memorable meeting. AFSA has also opened itself to broadening its engagement at the food system level and to producing an African Food Policy. This openness to ideas and initiatives, while keeping focused on its strategic goal is, to me, one of its strengths.
• Trusting partners: Over the years, AFSA has built a strong and enduring relationship with its funding partners. The rigor it is showing in handling its funding as well as the noticeable impact it is making in Africa has persuaded partners to stick with us.
We are building a formidable social movement in Africa. We are growing in number and strength, and will continue to grow our influence in the coming years.
Million Belay, Coordinator
Sue Edwards, 1940-2018
The African food sovereignty movement lost one of its brightest stars when Sue Edwards passed away in February 2018.
Born in England, Sue moved to Ethiopia in the 1960s to teach at the biology department of Addis Ababa University, where she met her husband to be, Dr. Tewolde Berhan. Together they developed the internationally acclaimed Tigray Project, using ecological principles in improving natural resource management, integrating respect for farmers' traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. The Tigray Project received the Gotheburg Award for Sustainability in 2011.
Her indomitable spirit touched so many lives and she will certainly remain an inspiration to us all. Lis Hosken, Gaia Foundation.
As Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD), Sue worked tirelessly to support smallholder farmers to make their land productive, while reviving their traditional knowledge, innovations and practices – helping mitigate climate change and cycling nutrients and carbon back to the soil. ISD also worked with school environment clubs and out of school youth in Addis Ababa to improve local environmental management for clean and healthy lifestyles.
The impact of her operations through ISD has brought a revolution to agricultural and food security drives in Africa. These are now lessons for research and developmental projects all over the world. Olugbenga O. AdeOluwa, Association of Organic Agriculture Practitioners of Nigeria
Some of us are what we are because of her. She will remain a huge presence in our midst. Zachary Makanya, African Biodiversity Network & PELUM-Kenya.
Growing demand and uptake of Agroecology practices on the ground
AFSA continued the work started in 2017 with more training courses on bio-fertiliser production and saw a growing demand and uptake of the technologies. Trainees have been energised to pass on the knowledge to others, and have recognised through practice and on-farm trials that this technology is a success, and presents a huge opportunity for commercialisation.
Why should farmers pay for imported chemicals that destroy their soils and pollute their environments when they can get better results at less cost while protecting and regenerating their lands. The enthusiasm that this ground breaking bio-fertiliser technology has awakened among training participants is a testament to its relevance and efficacy. It brings to life the mantra that agroecology is a science, a practice, and a social movement.
FAO Agroecology Symposium, Rome
AFSA participated in the 2nd FAO international symposium on Agroecology in Rome, Italy with a delegation of 10 members. The meeting brought together more than 700 participants including 72 governments. As part of this event AFSA organised a side event launching a new policy study on Policies, Frameworks and Mechanisms Related to Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in Africa. AFSA also distributed other policy studies and materials. AFSA’s Coordinator was part of the panel of speakers at the opening ceremony.
Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
AFSA representatives and staff participated in the 45th CFS in Rome, Italy in October. This included a two-day meeting of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) which is the official channel for civil society input into the CFS.
Strengthening cohesion within the Agroecology and Food Sovereignty movement
Organized by AFSA in November, the three-day African Food Systems conference in Senegal focused on five thematic issues: Urban food systems, Food systems and the soil, Policy change on food systems in Africa, The future of food systems in an increasingly complex world, and African cultural food systems. The conference brought together 135 delegates from 31 countries representing farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, consumer associations, research and development institutions, government representatives, media, and nongovernmental organizations working at global, regional and national level on the linkages between food production, nutrition and health. AFSA’s visibility was enhanced through media coverage but also among like-minded actors and policy makers who participated in the conference.
Two crucial outcomes emerged.
The first was the agreement of a unified AFSA Campaign Agenda for 2019/20: Promoting Agroecology as a Solution to Climate Change. The two-year campaign will scale up existing advocacy work, starting with a target of 10 countries. The campaign will rally the civil society and the citizenry at large to urge their governments and decision makers to reject the false narratives and solutions like Climate Smart Agriculture, and advance the agroecological solutions that will work for us as a continent.
The second was the decision for AFSA to spearhead the development of a Common Food Policy for Africa.
Agroecology for Africa Film
The 4-minute animated film makes the case for agroecology from an African perspective. It shows in simple terms how transitioning to agroecology has a huge potential to meet almost all of the SDGs, to feed Africa’s peoples, to lift those in need out of poverty, to improve the environment, and ensure people have healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. The film has been produced in both English and French and can be viewed online here: https://youtu.be/O8xu0TZgXFM
Amplifying Pastoralist Voices
Pastoralists face many threats: conflict and violence, blocked migration routes and water points, loss of grazing land due to drought and the expansion of large-scale development projects especially mineral extraction, lack of access to schools and healthcare. Pastoralist communities are often misunderstood, marginalized and excluded from making the decisions that affect them. AFSA member, the Eastern and Southern Africa Pastoralist Network (ESAPN) organized a planning meeting for strengthening their engagement in food sovereignty programs. AFSA collected and published five pastoralist case studies from different parts of the continent, focused on their contribution to food sovereignty.
Pastoralism Case Studies
Five pastoralist case studies have been published in English and French. They are available free on the AFSA website and the FAO Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, and hard copy packs have been produced in English and French.
The Climate Change and Agroecology working group met in Tsiko, Togo to work out a group strategy. The meeting was organised as part of the annual Cultural Biodiversity week organised by AFSA member JVE-International. As part of the broader engagement strategy, members of the group identified national and international climate change policy processes where AFSA can advance agroecology as an adaptation and mitigation measure. The other working groups also met during the annual strategy meeting to review the year including what has worked, not worked and areas for improvement. In the new year all groups agreed to strengthen the inter-linkages between the different groups towards a common action.
Working papers have also been developed for each of the working groups highlighting the context, goals and objectives, and broader activities.
AFSA has strengthened its online interactions through a weekly news bulletin (English and French) and regular posts on social media. Also a quarterly online newsletter of AFSA highlights. A new regular feature is an online interview with AFSA activists. These have ensured a constant flow of information and also increased our visibility. The newsletter is shared with over 900 subscribers.
The AFSA website hosting has been relocated from Addis Ababa to a more reliable hosting provider. A web designer has been commissioned to redesign and update the website. Also a dedicated website was created for the Food Systems Conference at http://foodsystems.afsafrica.org. The site has so far received 67,000 views, currently averaging 1,700 views per month.
AFSA’s twitter account has grown considerably this year to 2,395 followers. We now average over 20,000 impressions per month. Our best month was May when the article ‘Seeds of Neo-Colonialism – Why the GMO promoters get it so wrong about Africa’ was published. The twitter post was retweeted 91 times and generated 66,300 impressions. AFSA Facebook page is growing, with over 1,700 followers.
AFSA has subscribed to the Zoom professional video conferencing service, enabling more stable connections with several people at once.
Published by AFSA in 2018 ‘Know Agroecology’ is a media guide for African journalists and communicators to better understand and share information about agroecology and food sovereignty. It has been produced in English and French and was launched at the 15th Cultural Biodiversity Week in Togo with 120 young people from all over Africa.
The media guide is available online at https://afsafrica.org/know-agroecology/
The Real Seed Producers
AFSA launched a new publication at the AFSA Food Systems Conference in Senegal. Titled “The Real Seed Producers” this analysis of the role of small-scale farmers in saving Africa’s seed diversity was co-published by GRAIN and AFSA, together with research partners from Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The report shines a light on farmer managed seed systems and their place on the continent and reveals that small-scale farmers are the real custodians of seed. The publication is available at https://afsafrica.org/les-vrais-producteurs-de-semences/
External forces backed by huge financial muscle continue to influence African agriculture policy towards unsustainable industrial agriculture practices. The majority of African governments are still locked into embracing industrial agriculture, often at the expense of smallholder farmers.
As a network, AFSA is also still faced with a number of challenges including funding to implement group work plans or activities. There is still limited funding directed towards agroecology and food sovereignty.
The policy spaces for civil society participation are also limited especially at the regional level. Engaging with regional economic communities such as EAC, SADC and ECOWAS is still a challenge. We need to strengthen our engagement as an alliance with all regional economic communities. AFSA has look towards how to strengthen its participation in some of these spaces.
- AFSA will continue to make a strong case for agroecology in national, regional and international policy platforms as a rational and effective response to the challenges we face.
- More training courses will be organised to further upskill farmers and farmer leaders to expand the use of local agroecological inputs.
- AFSA will publish more, focusing on sharing stories of change including case studies, films and animation.
- We will also strengthen our engagement with regional economic communities through organisation of targeted events, actively seeking participation in relevant meetings organised at the RECs level.
- AFSA membership interactions and communications will also be strengthened through membership visits, working group meetings and information sharing through established AFSA member communication channels.
Our Board of Directors
AFSA has a unique board of seven directors led by women and with a majority of women members. Their leadership, commitment and passion for food sovereignty drives the Alliance forward.