Foreign Policy Blogs

Guest Blog: Uzo Mokwunye on Food Sovereignty in Africa

Guest Blog: Uzo Mokwunye on Food Sovereignty in AfricaFrom time to time, the Global Food Security Blog will call upon experts with an informed viewpoint on topics in global food security to contribute guest posts to our blog.  The first of our guest bloggers is Dr. Augustine Uzo Mokwunye, a development strategy consultant with expertise in natural resources management, capacity development, and application of innovation systems to agriculture.  Dr. Mokwunye also writes his own blog entitled “Redemption” on African food security.

Dr. Mokwunye will be responding to the GFS’s “Five Questions for…” interview with William Schanbacher and discussing how the concept of food sovereignty relates to Africa.

Rekindling the Concept of Food Sovereignty in Africa

The other day I was going over the Global Food Security Blog’s interview of Dr. William Schanbacher. It hit me that because Africa has gone from a continent of food exporters to one that relies heavily on food imports and food aid, Africans have learned to emphasize the concept of food security and have forgotten what food staples really meant to the African.

Obviously too great an emphasis on “survival” would have that kind of effect on any people.

As Dr. Schanbacher argues, food sovereignty focuses attention not simply on curbing hunger and malnutrition among small scale farmers. It emphasizes local production for local consumption. These incidentally are the same guiding principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), the framework that has been adopted by every African government to wean us from over-dependence on food imports.

Dr. Schanbacher also opined that the concept of food sovereignty involves looking at food not simply as an economic commodity but also as a cultural commodity. It is not difficult for an African to relate to this concept. When I was growing up in the Delta State of Nigeria, three weeks in September were set aside for cultural events marking the harvest of the new yams. Tradition had it that women and children were the first to consume the new yams while the men waited until the final week of the celebrations to eat the new harvest.

There was a rationale for this. By feeding the family first, the family head or father was reminded of his primary role as the care-taker of his family. In appreciation, the wife went out of her way to make sure that the utmost care was taken in preparing the meals for the husband and father using the new harvest.

So, I argue that Africa is set to put emphasis back on food sovereignty.  But, how can we do this when we  have ignored our staples and rely almost solely on rice and wheat, two crops that do not grow in tropical Africa? We have forgotten about yams, sorghum, millet and tef. The key therefore is for Africa’s agricultural research organizations to reorder their priorities and begin to emphasize research on Africa’s staples in keeping with the tenets of CAADP.

Post by Uzo Mokwunye



Rishi Sidhu

Rishi Sidhu is a freelance writer and journalist based in Boston, Massachusetts. He found his love for international relations while teaching English on the Japan Exchange and Teaching program in the rural town of Agematsu in Nagano prefecture. After 2 years in Japan, Rishi traveled to India to study Hindi and pursue his journalism career. He became interested in food security when he first heard people in India complaining about rising food prices and loves the issue because of its impact on all aspects of human society; from health to politics, from environmentalism to global development.