Can Africa survive the current food system crisis? | Africa

UntitledIntroducing the debate around the issue of systemic crisis of global food system in relation to global hunger, climate change, and sustainability; particularly, its ramifications on the African people and continent. Moreover, it is crucial to shed lights on three folds: (a) the political question of huger and food distribution, (b) the debate around the food system and climate change vis-à-vis land grabs which will include examination of large scale food production, and (c) alternative solutions of the current food system that rural farmers and social movements advocating for.

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11 thoughts on “Can Africa survive the current food system crisis? | Africa

  1. First off, I was so blinded by my own life that I did not realize or the thought has not come across my mind, that there was a food system crisis in Africa let alone the world. So I was looking forward to hearing Elsheikh’s presentation. I have seen the campaigns for solving hunger at 2am in the morning and Feeding America, or even the people that stand outside of grocery store entrances and here at Berkeley trying to raise funds. Overall it is always good to hear that there are people studying/thinking and somewhat devoting their lives to solve the world’s crises. During Elsadig’s presentation despite the technical issues I had a hard time connecting with the series of facts and statistics; but they also woke me up to severity of hunger. There seems to be so much going wrong with the world today that I seem to only have the energy to focus on my own issues. The data that was presented was staggering. The presentation was almost spent, as a means to reinsure there is an issue as oppose to how the issue(s) are being solved. I felt his presentation needed case studies and visuals pertaining to a specific place. I also understand if given more time and a seamless presentation, there could have been examples of places and their specific issues and what was being done to help solve those issues. I would have benefited from mapping or images of places in the global south given that I am not well traveled. If I can’t visualize something then I have a hard time understanding it. Has the question been answered? Can Africa survive the current food systems crisis? Only time will tell.

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    • Thanks for your feedback. I agree that due to the technology issue we had, the last two slides were flipped quickly. They have the answer to the problem. I am posting the content of these couple of slides here again.

      ACTIONS WITHIN THE GLOBAL NORTH:
      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
       Discouraging industrial-scale meat and dairy production and encouraging diets high in grain, vegetable and fruits–this could liberate 40% of the world’s grain production, reduce energy consumption through transportation saving and reduce GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions while improving human nutrition and lowering healthcare costs.
       Rejecting agrofuels/biomass crops except for locally produced community-based consumption.
       Prohibiting land speculation and land grab
       Eliminating industrial farming/fishing subsidies and adapting regulatory systems that encourage genetic diversity among plant, animal, and aquatic food species.
       Eliminating intellectual property regimes or unnecessary regulations that privileged genetic uniformity.
       Expanding public research on the beneficial use of microbes for soil fertility and as bio-control agents
       Insuring that food retailers do not exploit agricultural workers through labor contracts and procurement standards.

      ACTIONS WITHIN THE GLOBAL SOUTH:
      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
       Strengthening customary use of land and resource rights, while taking special measures to protect women’s rights to productive assets.
       Encouraging urban and semi-urban food production in which will support women producers.
       Supporting the conservation of endangered genetic diversity for small farmers through conservation programs in gene banks.
       Mitigating the exposure of marginalized populations to food price volatility by avoiding excessive reliance on trade, and ensuring resilient local food production systems.
       Rejecting industry-based food safety standards that discriminate against peasant farmers and small-scale businesses.
       Prohibiting any measures –public or private- that constrain the right of peasants to save or exchange food genetic resources.
       Encourage and support peasant-based food production and facilitate direct peasant-based consumer marketing arrangements with special attention to the role of women.
       Incorporating the Right to Food of the UN in binding law, nationally and internationally.

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  2. The food system crisis on the continent of Africa undoubtedly must be considered in the context of postcolonialism. During the period known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the late nineteenth century, European nations partitioned the majority of the continent into an assortment of colonies, protectorates, and free-trade areas. The borders of these areas were mapped out in the capitals of Europe, and were based on scant knowledge of the local conditions. These arbitrary boundaries largely remained in place during the decolonization period in the 1960s when most African nations gained independence. As a result, most African nations today are based on outdated colonial land-grabs rather than preexisting political borders, sociocultural identities, or geological/environmental conditions. The colonial partitioning of Africa did not produce equitable divisions of land; rather, there is a large disparity between sizes of countries, natural resources, the arability of land, etc. As a result, it is much more difficult for some nations to achieve food security than others. This leads me to wonder: would regional alliances be advantageous for sharing resources, capital, and technologies to improve food production in Africa? Or is it better for countries to work toward becoming self-sufficient?

    I am thinking about the East African Community (EAC) as an example; the EAC is a regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda. “Agriculture and Food Security” is a key area of cooperation in the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, and the East African Community Agriculture and Rural Development Policy (EAC – ARDP) has been developed as the first step toward the goals of food security and improved agricultural production (East African Community website, http://www.eac.int/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=53). Could these type of alliances help to alleviate the food system crisis in Africa? I believe they have the potential to cut across colonial-era boundaries and leverage transnational cooperation to alleviate hunger.

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  3. Thanks for the feedback… I believe linking the problem with colonialism is very important. And the proposed solutions in the talks (especially the actions related to the Global South) can be implemented allot easier if this “Regional” compositions of African countries started to formulate. This will allow the African countries to tackle the food problem issues with higher importance and in more integration. From my experience, these “Regional Clusters” exist but they are (i) inconsistent and (ii) not fully empowered. They are also influenced by the Multi-Nationals (i.e. corporate sector operations), the geography (i.e. the Nile basin initiatives), the World Bank pre-classified regions ….and many other inconsistent clusters.

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  4. My previous knowledge before this presentation did acknowledge the issue of a food crisis in Africa and lack of clean water. However, what I thought I knew did not grasp the severity of the topic presented by Elsadig Elsheikh. I was shocked to see the actual facts and statistics shown in this presentation. I was especially dumbfounded at the fact that nearly 3.007 billion people in the world are starving or are malnourished. Considering that there are 7 billion people in the world it is incredible realizing that almost half of the world’s population is in this state. Realizing that the cause of hunger derives from many contributing factors makes me wonder where the problem should be addressed and tackled first.
    I would have liked to hear more about the ways that some individuals or organizations have tried to tackle the problem and how and what can make their solutions have a greater impact. I would have liked to hear more on how he would tackle the food system crisis in Africa. There was a lot of statistics and facts which are really helpful, but I would have liked to see personal cases and more visuals. I know that due to lack of time he was not able to show us the video he had included in his presentation. However, personally I can comprehend a situation better when I visually connect with videos or pictures that share the story of the individuals impacted by these issues. Overall, Elsheikh’s presentation was very informative and shocking when it came down to the number of individuals impacted by the food crisis in Africa and worldwide.

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  5. There were some technical glitches which made it a little difficult for me to understand the entirety of his presentation, but one thing that struck me as particularly important, and interesting was the switch to local economies to solve the hunger, and environmental crisis. I really like this approach because it has so many benefits through such a simple task. Not only in Africa, but this is something we need to do globally lest our entire planet will suffer. I remember reading something Mark Bittman wrote for the New York Times: despite Santa Barbara producing so much vegetables and produce, it is exported and Santa Barbarans purchase most of their produce from South America. This really is a global issue.
    It definitely surprised me, though, that Africa has a problem with locally sourcing food. In my experience, I’ve noticed that third-world countries are much better at eating what grows locally. Typically, developing countries don’t have the same access to crops from other places. But I realized that the issue is that control is in the wrong hands.
    If we let countries switch to a local economy, it solves an economic, environmental, and social problem. Economically, it provides a source of jobs to the people of the community, rather than distant workers or people who are not actually doing the work. Consumers know where their money is going as opposed to spending money on a cause they are unaware of. If people know their money is going to a good cause, they are more likely to spend it on those causes rather than toward a cause they wouldn’t consciously support.
    Environmentally, we are reducing are carbon footprint by not having our crops travel large distances to reach us. It is there in the vicinity. Additionally, small-scale farmers are known to make better use of limited resources, and produce better tasting produce. This is crucial at a time where the world is suffering from drought and needs to preserve the available water.
    Most importantly, I believe, is the attention to treating workers properly. If small-scale farmers were more in control of the food they are producing, and don’t have to respond to a higher authority, they can keep their profits. They will not be exploited, which is vital to developing a safe community.
    This needs to happen in all countries, not just Africa. The food crisis, be that the lack there of or just the lack of healthy options, needs to be addressed. I agree with the speaker, that one of the most simple, yet efficient method to fix this is through locally sourcing food, and supporting a local economy.

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  6. Thanks for brining these two important issues: (i) Food transportation and (ii) Farmers as crucial part of the local economy and wither they work in free market or bound by what you called “Higher Authority”

    I would like to suggest this reading about food mobility if you are need further understanding understanding:
    Feenstra, G. W. (2014). Local food systems and sustainable communities, (October 2009), 28–36. doi:10.1017/S0889189300007165

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  7. While I have rarely thought about the food system crisis as it pertains to Africa, after hearing the facts and figures during the presentation, there is obviously more cause for alarm. Elsheikh made some good points but some comments were harder to believe. For instance, I appreciated the distinction made in explaining the difference between hunger, malnutrition, and stunted and how it attributes to there being a larger number of people impacted, 3 billion or so. These statistics seem like cause and effect. If a person is suffering from hunger is it safe to assume they will be malnourished and therefore stunted in development? Is this one person subsequently counted thrice within the 3 billion? Whether or not this is the case, it was an eye opener of how immense the crisis has become.

    I would have like more time to have been spent on the subject of climate change and how that would drastically change food production. I understand that due to the time constraint the more vital part of the presentation was delivered rather quickly in terms of the solutions and actions to be taken in the Global North and the Global South. I agree with the ideas of encouraging biodiversity as oppose to monoculture and supporting small farms versus solely mechanical agriculture. It is astonishing that 40% of liberation can come from producing one’s own grains, fruits and vegetables; it seems as though globally we are a long way away from severely downsizing the industrial scale meat and dairy production. I feel there are far more meat eaters than our vegetarian counterparts.

    One of the main statements that I took away from the presentation is that African countries were forced to abandon their own means of producing food and have become dependent on food aid. I would have never thought of “aid” as a hindrance. Ultimately, I think the question begs not to be “can Africa survive the global food crisis” but instead “What can be done to ensure Africa survives the global food crisis”. Both approaches of top down with government policies and bottom up with non-profit organizations need to be considered in order for survival to happen.

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  8. I was very intrigued by the title of this talk. Ultimately however, I felt Elsheikh was speaking in such broad terms that it do not relate to the topic inferred by the title nor pinpoint any specifics to a solution in Africa. I understand that he wanted to set the global context and lay out basic principles however it seemed that this prohibited him from getting to the main substance. Of his general global food system view I though his explanation of financialization started to open up the topics he clearly knew well. It would have been interesting to hear about this in more specifics. Perhaps some concrete examples or a more detailed set of actions and reactions.

    In regards to his diagrams I found some of them to be of questionable use. For example the land and seed grab map showed a dot (all the same size) in every country this is occurring. This includes countries like the United States and most others in the Global North. If this dot were proportional to say the percentage of arable land available in the country being grabbed however, perhaps it could tell us something more.

    Finally I thought his recommendations for future action, while all commendable and in my opinion correct, were also to broad to be of practical use. I would have liked to hear just one in more detail. I think Esheikh is clearly a very smart man, we were just unable to hear his most progressive thinking or concentrate on what he knows best.

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  9. Elsheikh’s lecture on the African food crisis was extremely interesting. I thought it highlighted some significant challenges that faced the people in these countries, and related them very well to issues we see in our daily lives.
    I think his lecture was extremely well put together and utilized statistics very effectively to convey the severity of the hunger issue in Africa. He discussed how the root of the problem was the dividing up of Africa by European countries in the 1800’s. This has had ramifications that have lasted to this very day. Because of this division, there is a constant struggle for territory in Africa, and as a result several wars have ensued. Most of these wars are centered around the pursuit for the large amount of natural resources that are not even close to evenly divided between the different territories. This inevitably leads to a hunger crisis as there are more nations struggling for limited food resources.
    The presentation as a whole was well put together and allowed for me to better understand the crisis. Honestly the only thing I would say as a negative for the presenter is that he was very difficult to understand at some points. I am sure that this was due to a language barrier, but it made the presentation much harder to understand in certain areas. He still did very well though with the question and answer portion, and was able to back up his points in a very clear way.
    This presentation was a highly alarming one and gave me a new perspective on the hunger issue in Africa. I had never attributed it to the dividing up of the land in Africa, and assumed it was an entirely an issue of government corruption in the area.

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