Sep 7, 2021 | Blog

Transforming Food Systems from a Farmers’ Perspective

Eradicating hunger and achieving food security remain major challenges to humanity and to sustainability. More than 690 million people in the world are hungry, Covid19 has exacerbated this further. Indeed, farmers, who are at the core of food systems continue to adversely shoulder the agony of the crippling demand vs supply shortfall.

Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA and UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Food Systems Summit gave her opening remarks at the Famers Forum citing, “7-10 people farm in Africa and hence why in this forum we are prioritizing the voice of farmers who live with everyday difficulties of agricultural systems,”. She also emphasized the facts that famers need us all to work collectively and do better to reduce climate change so as to alleviate the burden to the 7-10 farmers who are continuously living in abject poverty.

During the fireside chat moderated by Ms. Nozipho Tshabalala the CEO of The Conversation Strategist, panelists delved into discussions on the global state of farming and also if farmers are getting the fair share from their produce. As a reaction to this, Mr. Ajay Vir Jakhar Chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj (Farmers’ Forum India) emphasized that there isn’t adequate documentation of failures. “We need to build knowledge and to document failures to achieve equitable regenerative systems, and equally incentivize farmers to create a transformative shift” he quipped.

Ms. Elizabeth Nsimadala, President, Panafrican Farmer’s Organisation (PAFO) also indicated that farmers usually get low returns because they are in the production part of the chain which is longer and riskier to which this risk isn’t distributed along the value chain actors. “There is need to engage farmers in value addition activities to move them up the values chain”, she said.

“We have not taken time to attach value to the kind of food that farmers are producing in Africa, a continent that produces the most nutritious food globally,” said Ms. Agnes Kirabo CEO, Food Rights Alliance Uganda. She stated these remarks in the equitable livelihoods roundtable. There was a passionate plea and emphasis by Ms. Kirabo to have commodity pricing as a regulatory framework in governments to improve investing by farmers for better profits.

Mr. Nga Célestin CEO, PROPAC in the same breadth indicated that small scale farmers have limited resources, with no access to markets. Modernization has equally brought conflict and climate change effects such as floods and droughts. “In the Central African region, we have to develop farming of food such as yams, cereals and other local food products and make a call to reduce social political fights to protect people against violence so as to grow the food security,” he said.

Immediately next off was the commitments framework that digested what farmers need from key value chain actors to succeed. As a response Mr. Cris Muyunda, Chair, CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC) reminded all on the Malabo Declaration that had governments commit 10 percent of their national budget yearly to the agricultural sector to grow. He urged famers to constantly hold their governments accountable to this promise and to ensure that they are involved in policy formulation that affects agriculture. “The Bi-nnual review by each government has to have farmers also speak to the reports that are generated on the agricultural progress so that numbers are not doctored,” he finalized.

Beatrice Makwenda speaking on behalf of Betty Chinyamunyamu, Chief Executive Officer, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) said that it is critical to create a conducive environment to have famers access inputs that are well priced and accessible. “Public Investment should be geared towards having more trained and qualified extension officers to support famers in the grassroots,” she said.  The key backbone of the farmers forum were the famers who were present to also give their voice to the discussions. Josephat Mokaya, a young farmer in Kenya, quipped, “I am a beneficiary of the enable youth program in Kenya. I applied because there would be grants to farmers but after joining there were no grants, governments should have mechanism to follow up this commitment for 10% funding to farmers.” Other farmers from Uganda and Malawi as well shared the sentiments that youth engagement and empowerment needs to be prioritized so as to ensure sustainable employment opportunities in agriculture.

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