By Constantine Akitanda, Saly Portudal, Senegal
African countries have been extolled to stand united against an onslaught by multinational industrial agricultural companies to dump inappropriate technologies and agricultural applications in the continent.
The president of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Mariann Bassey-Oruvweje, told a conference on African Food System and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held in SalyPortudal, Senegal that Africa’s food systems and culture were under threat.
‘’It is vital that we work together soberly to examine the negative impact of imported technologies such as synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, proprietary seeds, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and gene drives that those companies and their hired helpers/local partners are seeking to dump on us and treat us as guinea pigs,’’ she said.
She lamented that Africa was being portrayed as a continent teeming with hungry, malnourished and poverty-stricken people, a template being used by the multinationals and their collaborating partners to take over African land and food systems and introduce their propriety seeds and agro-chemicals in the continent.
“It is high time that people saw Africa in a more positive eye. The negative poster image should be erased because as a continent we have a lot of good things to showcase,” Mariann said.
She added that industrial agricultural multinationals were pushing for copy-and-paste policies and laws from their countries that cannot work in Africa because of contextual divergences.
“We are still grappling with GMOs, and they have brought on yet another ‘solution’ – a deliberately invasive technology known as ‘gene drive’. All these are done intentionally to suffocate our food systems and agriculture,” the AFSA president pointed out.
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa is a pan-African platform and a network of over 30 organizations operating in 52 out of the continent’s 54 countries.
The seven-day conference in Senegal was meant to interrogate and conceptualize issues around soil, seeds, climate change and African cultural food systems.
Mariann said multinational agro-chemical corporations were now merging and forming big alliances, and wondered why small-scale farmers, pastoralists, fisher-folks, hunter gathers, consumers, climate defenders, CSOs and academia in Africa should not do the same against this threat.
“Our work is connected, we should not be working in isolation. If we work together our efforts will be amplified and our voices strengthened,” she pointed out.
She warned that Africa will face great challenges in the future if food sovereignty is lost and farmers are tied to the commercial noose of corporate agribusinesses.
Mariann called for the building of strategic alliances and networks between organisations and platforms across the diverse thematic areas of operation to press for needed change. Focus should be on joint actions in knowledge and information sharing, identification and pursuit of issues of common interest.
“We should not diminish our abilities to make a more lasting impact by isolating ourselves and groups. Global solidarity is needed to stop corporate take-over and control of food and family systems in Africa and the rest of the world,” she said.
Tanzania was represented at the conference by the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement (TOAM), African Organic Agriculture Network (AfrONet), African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), and Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO).