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G8: Africa needs food sovereignty 0

Agricultural assistance by Group of Eight donor countries had fallen sharply, to around $5 billion a year in 2007 from $20 billion in the 1980s, leading to a 75% drop.

Food security and Africa are high on the G8 agenda and the G8 of Agriculture had already focused on several issues promoted by African farmers’ organizations.

“Agriculture should serve citizens’ needs for food security and not be negatively affected by trade distortions. The access of smallholder farmers  to land has to be defended. Key to all improvement are sound agricultural policies developed with the participation of farmers’ organizations and other stakeholders,” says Nora McKeon, coordinator of EuropAfrica and partner of ROPPA, the network of agricultural organizations and farmers which links farmers’ platforms of 12 Western Africa countries and 45 millions farmers.

“The draft G8 Statement on Global Food Security which risks being adopted at L’Aquila reads as though it came from another planet. World trade, private sector investment, “green revolution” technology and food aid are the magic bullets, with only glancing mention for farmers themselves” McKeon states.

Interviewed by Afronline, Ndiogou Fall, President of ROPPA, explains that the G8 is not enough.

Considering your battles to promote sustainable agriculture, which goals have you reached and which obstacles have you had to cope with?

We have been working for three years in the negotiations of EPAs, the partnership agreements between Europe and ACP countries, which had also been considered an obstacle to agricultural and economic development by many countries of the ECOWAS, the economic community of Western Africa States.

Today economic actors agree with this position, but we had to face many problems to persuade them.

Originally the idea of promoting and protecting the internal market were considered old-fashioned.

We go on working on this topic, because we aim at having our own agricultural policies in our region and at using the correct instruments.

In this battle, we were supported by our allies, both in Africa and in Europe. One of them was EuropAfrica.

There are many points on which the next G8 is going to focus. Which are considered as priorities by ROPPA?

We see it as a good start that the G8 will focus on the food crisis. However, the real problems of agriculture are ignored once again by the International community.

The difficulties we have to cope with in the African agricultural sector are due to bad governance, and we do not think that the G8 is the right institution to solve this kind of problem.

The priority should be to discuss agricultural governance at the United Nations, where every State can express its point of view with a strength that is not calculated according to its economic power, which is, in my opinion, the weak point of the G8.

I think that we are not talking enough about the real problems that gave birth to the food crisis.

The political choices made between the 70s and the 80s brought unfair competition onto the market. Following this, the International community promoted a commercial system that favoured big exporters, subjecting the food industry to financial speculation.

This is very risky and the food crisis is a dramatic example of the possible consequences.

Do you have any concrete solution to solve this complicated situation?

Protectionist measures need to be implemented. It means that we have to promote food sovereignty in every community by guaranteeing that every country has a right to define its own agricultural policy without foreign interference.

Instead of promoting industrial agriculture, the one made by big companies, the International community needs to support the weakest and poorest parts of the world’s population.

A solution could be found in small-scale producers, which constitute a majority of African farmers and the real actors of global agricultural production. Family agriculture needs to be put in the centre of agricultural policy making.

Download the Declaration of the Farmers’ Organizations of Africa to the G8

By Afronline Staff with ItaliAfrica.

ROPPA is a partner of ItaliAfrica, a network of NGOs, agricultural organizations and associations that has been working for years with African farmers, sustaining their fights for political rights and their lobbying for sustainable agricultural politics in the South and the North.

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi