Opinion Piece: I am convinced Food Sovereignty will save our governments a lot of public resources
While I have always had my doubts about the potential of African governments and NGOs to eradicate household poverty and provide food security, my recent encounter of food sovereignty issues proved these doubts and now I am more convinced that it is only when a human being intends to change a situation that something will be done. Food sovereignty, which is the right to determine what food to produce, eat and the freedom to determine what to do with the resources at one’s disposal (land, water, environment and human support) is a trend governments should embrace and promote.
At a recent Food Sovereignty Symposium organized by ESAFF Uganda and Global Food Justice (Veterinarios Sin Frontera - VSF), with small scale farmers from DRC and Uganda, the farmers’ clearly expressed how government and NGO hand outs remain property of the giver. They however, indicated that the easiest way out of their poverty had been their initiative to start working as families, to grow food, to rear animals, to have savings and to preserve their environment and to diversify their sources of income. That was when things changed for the farmers. It got me thinking why governments bother so much giving all these inputs, hand outs of all sorts including poor seeds, and perceived political gestures like cows which people are happy to have but not interested in keeping. What people need is the right and freedom to determine what they need themselves because every individual celebrates their success story and hardly any credit is given to government.
Therefore, I am choosing to stop asking for hand outs for farmers; I will seek knowledge and human rights because from that symposium, people were happy to learn from their fellow farmers, to visit each others’ farms and to engage in themed drama than listen to long presentations on Food sovereignty and Family Farming. They loved the indigenous crop varieties at the farms and were happy to learn how their fellow farmers produced fruit juice and where the markets for produce were than whether policies were good or bad.
I realized that farmers would rather be sharing experiences than learning about the National development plan and this got me thinking. Instead of governments giving people fertilizer, perhaps encouraging other sources of natural fertilizer like decomposition was better. That perhaps providing farmers with alternative markets and the standards required to sell in those markets was better than giving seedlings. I even felt that lowering interest rates and availing more money in agricultural banks was better than giving seedlings to farmers. That is when I chose that in this article, I believe that giving and recognizing the rights of farmers to determine their food needs and ways of producing that food is definitely better at eradicating poverty and creating incomes and employment which is what is envisaged as food sovereignty. I call upon governments to give it a try; It will lower the costs governments incur in trying to impose their manifestos and ideas on the farmers.
So the next time government wants to eradicate poverty and hunger as now aspired by the new African Union’s Malabo declaration, they should try recognizing human rights rather than providing patronizing inputs. Farmers’ want to be active players and partners in their development, not recipients from a generous benefactor and I am convinced governments would be glad to save the money they waste on inputs for provision of other services such as constriction of markets and roads and irrigation schemes. But that’s just my thinking!!!
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