« We need to promote sustainable food systems (…) and preserve the environment: agroecology can help achieve this »
A sustainable food system guarantees the right to food, respect for food sovereignty, healthy and sufficient food for present and future generations, and economic growth.
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples, communities and countries to define, in the fields of agriculture, labor, fisheries, food and forest management, policies that are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally adapted to their unique situation.
It includes the right to food and food production, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and the means to produce it and they must have the ability to support themselves and their societies
The best approach to building and supporting sustainable food systems is agroecology. Agroecology is not limited to sustainable food production but inclusive of the sustenance of the cultural ethos, ethical values and rituals that form part of the identity of the people. It is based on the defense of ethic of life, collective transformation and respect for the model of being and living, while it aims to fight for land and food sovereignty. Agroecology has demonstrated positive social and environmental impacts that are culturally appropriate while preventing malnutrition and improving the quality of food and the diversity of nutrients.
The sustainable development it inspires takes into account not only the economic dimension, but also the environmental and social dimensions of development. It ensures the independence and autonomy of producers, equitable access to resources and land, as well as decent incomes and fair prices. In order to meet the climatic requirements, the sustainable food system inspired by agroecology respects the limits of the planet, biodiversity and preserves ecosystems, soils, groundwater, streams and oceans. It pays particular attention to land use and more specifically to the fight against deforestation. It is more resilient to climate change, respects agriculture in all its diversity; it means that it leaves room for fishermen, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. Communities and farmers’ organizations participate in decision-making and the definition of food systems. The cultural dimension also plays a key role; food systems must reflect the cultural choices of the people and be important to them.
The holistic approach of agroecology is particularly well adapted to the environmental and socio-economic realities of family farming in Africa. In Africa, agriculture is at the center of social cohesion. Far from being simply an activity in itself or only economy oriented, it initiates and maintains links of solidarity and mutual assistance among people. Surely, sustainable development for Africa must be part of that line where people continue to strengthen the bonds of their unity and to bring together the cultural and social values that make up their identity. Africa needs a food system that strengthens security and access to land and other means of production for all, small machinery as well as techniques for preserving its crops to avoid food wastage.
Food systems emphasizing the logic of agribusiness production through intensive agriculture require many inputs and resources. Such a model of agriculture destroys nature, invades the territories, exploits the workers and makes worse the situation of the poor peasants. It is recognized that the rural area is home to many animal and plant species, a biodiversity that is essential for its sustainable development. In order to avoid the negative impact of certain agricultural practices, the European Union encourages farmers to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices but it is worrisome that the EU has not insisted on such important environmental path for the European agricultural corporations’ investments in Africa.
Recently, IPES-food, has launched a report based on a participatory research involving farmers, food entrepreneurs, civil society activists, scientists and policy makers. This report is aimed to build a new Common Agriculture Policy involving the whole food system, bringing together production, processing, distribution and consumption of food. It presents an alternative towards a smooth transition into sustainability and provides concrete examples of communities breaking away from industrial agriculture. One of the five objectives that the report is trying to achieve is putting trade in the service of sustainable development. Up till now, EU agri-trade policies have promoted the interests of powerful export industries pushing developing countries into socially and environmentally harmful export commodity production, while undermining their ability to pursue sustainable development pathways.
Courageous measures are required as removing trade-distorting CAP incentives, strengthening sustainability clauses in trade agreements, ensuring that food EU imports are free from deforestation, land-grabs and rights violations. This means putting people and planet first, daring to negotiate sustainable trade agreements instead of free trade agreements.
For the standardized thinking in European Commission, it is not easy to reflect open-mindedly on this path that imagines a win – win play from which both, people from Europe, Africa and other continents, would benefit. A leading and reinforced Europe could walk this way encouraging a world food policy aimed to feed the hungry while saving the planet.
AEFJN Policy Officer
 José Graziano da Silva ; Directeur-général de l’Agence des Nations unies pour l’agriculture et l’alimentation (FAO) José Graziano da Silva : https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_agriculture-l-onu-se-convertit-a-l-agroecologie?id=9883632
 Coalition contre la Faim, Position Paper – décembre 2018; Systèmes alimentaires durables au Sud Obstacles et pistes pour relever le défi