During a recent fireside conversation at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Million Belay, General Coordinator for Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa discussed the power of food sovereignty and agroecology. The conversation was co-organized by Food Tank and the Food and Agriculture Pavilion.
Belay notes that there are worrying trends as investors take an interest in the agriculture sector across the African continent. While funds can be beneficial, he says, they often “come with drawbacks.”
Investors, he explains, “want to go in, invest, get money, and get out most of the time. They don’t have a long term perspective.”
Belay instead believes in a model for food systems that is grounded in communities, promoting a goal of food sovereignty over food security. “Unlike food security, which doesn’t ask where the food comes from, food sovereignty asks where the food is coming from, how it is produced, [if] the food is culturally appropriate,” he says. “It also goes beyond and asks generally who owns the food system.”
Key to food sovereignty is agroecology, an approach to agriculture that, Belay explains, is a practice, a science, and a social movement. The social and political component of agroecology is particularly important, he argues — and it is typically missing from the regenerative agriculture movement that many food systems actors are increasingly embracing today.
The regenerative agriculture movement may have started with the best of intentions, but it is now “separated from the political part,” Belay says. “The system is not right so we have to struggle to change the system. The struggle is not built into regenerative agriculture or, if it is, it’s very weak. So that’s the problem, it’s very easy to co-opt.”
“[Social] cohesiveness is very critical when you’re attacked by a climate crisis,” he says. “You can mobilize together. You can help each other.”
Watch the full conversation below.
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