Food Lover Envisions Africa as the Food Basket of the World
Shaping Our Identity
This year, I spent many hours trying to define what Africa represents as a continent, which is a quite a difficult endeavor because of the varieties that exist even within regions and sub-regions. A cursory look at the five blocks — North, South, East, West and Central Africa — discloses huge regional divides. I can trace imaginary lines that connect us all as a continent and I will put them down to five things: the sun, spirituality, family, our warmth and our constant celebration of food. This is a continent that can arguably claim to have invented cooking.
Food for Africans is beyond what keeps hunger at bay, it is a celebration. It is how we enjoy each other’s company after being apart and also how we appreciate one another’s culture. It is how we bring family and friends together to share our experiences and to bond. Food gives the assurance that wherever we travel and whatever experiences we have, each person has a seat at the table, has a voice that is worth hearing and has a group that cheers him on. Food creates an avenue for us as Africans to iron out misgivings in a relaxed atmosphere as well as to mentor (or be mentored by) the next generation. Food for us is an encounter; a meeting. Whenever I travel, I look forward to eating native meals prepared the native way. The other day I was totally smitten with Banku in Ghana while getting over a recent obsession with Sauce d’arachide in Bénin. The flavors always speak volumes about the people I meet and what their inclinations might be. Meals are celebrations because they are prepared with so much love and come with so many stories/history attached to them.
One would think that a people with such huge love for food would at the very least have set a target to become the food basket of the world! Ironically, this love for food as a fundamental part of our identity has not transformed the African agricultural sector into the most vibrant in the world; that is to put it very lightly. Going by the World Bank’s Enabling the business of Agriculture score sheet (EBA), African countries rank below average aggregately. Morocco together with Kenya, Ghana, Uganda Tanzania, Gambia South Africa and Mozambique are the only African countries within the top 40 high-ranking agricultural countries worldwide.
In Sub-Saharan Africa specifically, the love for food ironically cohabits with staggering hunger and malnutrition and at least 1 in 5 people face hunger and 24.1% of people are undernourished. There are many challenges to overcome, including the widening technology divide, slow development of input and output markets and associated market services, slow progress in regional integration, governance and institutional shortcomings in some countries, conflicts, HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Connecting smallholders to markets and helping them to adapt to new conditions and become more productive, increasing opportunities for rural employment, reducing risk and vulnerability, especially to extreme weather events and price swings, and increasing access to assets and skills will be important to stem the tide of hunger for this populous region.
According to the World Bank press release of October 21, 2019, 47 countries make 67 reforms to help farmers grow their business, which further places Morocco as the top performer in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), enacting efficient machinery registration processes and comprehensive water management laws that require information on water resources to be publicly available. Morocco is also among the top performers in the protecting plant health indicator.
The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) Morocco is a major actor in the development sector of Morocco. HAF is perpetually involved in agricultural projects that provide solutions to hunger and rural livelihoods. Over the course of 20 years, HAF has expanded to several rural areas in Morocco, helping farmers, refugees and also planting trees to secure the future. The uniqueness of HAF is in its ability to take the shape of whichever community it works with. It works in a participatory model; communities identify their needs and inform the projects to be embarked upon, and HAF Morocco takes on the vision that Moroccans have for themselves.
As the global economy becomes highly unpredictable and the recent snow storms in the northern hemisphere strengthen the works of authors like Theodore Landscheidt, who in May 2003 proposed A New Little Ice-Age Instead Of Global Warming, there is no better time to focus on agriculture in Africa. If anything, the ice age only looks good when Santa is sliding on it, otherwise it denotes famine, starvation and death. HAF Morocco hopes to play its part in defining a new African identity by strengthening participatory and sustainable agricultural development in Morocco and replicating same in other parts of the African continent. Within the next two decades, HAF Morocco hopes to be a key actor in sustainable development through agriculture, and it will play a critical role in food security in Africa and by extension help Africa become the food basket of the world.
Funmi Aiyegbusi is an attorney with a passion for small holder farmers and improving rural livelihoods.