Africa faces multiple challenges related to our food systems, including hunger, malnutrition, obesity, noncommunicable diseases, the climate crisis, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, cultural erosion, and other climate related shocks, such as pest and disease outbreaks and escalating prices of external inputs. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the weaknesses of current food systems to meet the needs of African peoples.
These interconnected challenges demand a holistic response, with African civil society and institutions working together to develop African solutions to meet African needs, addressing the gaps and inconsistencies in current frameworks and exploiting the potential of innovative ideas and approaches.
This session will bring key actors and thinkers from across Africa to debate on the current status of the food system in their part of the continent and suggest solutions to address the challenges.
Biodiversity is critical to sustainable farming. Evidence from long-term field experiments (50 – 170 years) suggest that the central relationship between microbes, organic carbon and soil structure determines soil system performance. Detailed work at Rothamsted led by Prof. Andrew Neal is demonstrating the strong relationship between organic carbon, structure and the hydrodynamic behaviour of soil. Among other sources, farmyard manure plays an important role in managing soil systems. The experiments also demonstrate significantly higher levels of organic matter/carbon under grass – with the associated benefits of increased soil porosity and hydraulic conductivity.
Dr Felicity Crotty is researching the implications of land use on the soil food web for its biodiversity and its relationship to soil health in both arable and livestock systems. Her current research involves the monitoring of earthworms as the emblem of soil health and seeking to identify linkages between healthy soil and healthy food.
Since time immemorial, farmers have recognised the vital role that grazed pasture plays in rebuilding the health and fertility of the soil following the disruption caused by cultivation. As researchers continue to understand and explain why, Prof Neal and Dr Crotty will share their recent findings.
Too much investment flowing into agriculture is perverse – shoring up inequitable food systems that grow an ever narrower range of foods and exacerbate climate change. Massive public and private investments in agroecological food systems and agroecological movements are urgently needed – investments that align with agroecological principles and don't serve to greenwash investor portfolios. This session will explore why and how philanthropies and bilateral and multilateral development agencies invest in agroecology, both the challenges and opportunities.
Pathogens are repeatedly emerging out of a global agrifood system rooted in inequality, labour exploitation, and unfettered extractivism by which communities are robbed of their natural and social resources. In response, some propose agricultural intensification under the guise of sparing ‘wilderness’ – an approach that actually leads to greater deforestation and disease spillover. The false solution to divide people from nature would omit many forms of peasant, Indigenous, and smallholder agriculture methods that are integrated within forest ecosystems and produce food and fibre for local and regional uses while preserving high levels of agrobiodiversity and wildlife diversity.
Pandemic Research for the People (PReP) is focusing on how agriculture might be reimagined as the kind of community-wide intervention that could stop coronaviruses and other pathogens from emerging in the first place. We advocate for agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and Indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. A diverse agroecological matrix of farm plots, agroforestry, and grazing lands all embedded within a forest can conserve biocultural diversity, making it more difficult for zoonotic diseases to easily string together a bunch of infections and prevail, while accounting for the economic and social conditions of people currently tending the land.
Peasant agroecologies are more than matters of soil and food, as important as those are. Agroecologies are founded upon practical politics that place agency and power in the hands of poor and working class, Indigenous, and Black and Brown people. They replace the dynamics of ecologically harmful forms of urbanization and agricultural industrialization operating in favour of a racial and patriarchal capitalism. They place planet and people before profits none but a few reap.
Working towards Net Zero to reduce global warming has well and truly arrived for us all and is even more important now as we strive to reach Government targets and look to the possible new requirements and structures of future farming payment schemes. Farmers are key and incredibly well placed to help deliver this globally through a range of changes and options for their farming practices.
This session on reaching Net Zero or even Sub-Zero by using nature friendly solutions brings you practical ways to help achieve this on your farm. A panel of farmers from across the UK will share their work and experiences in the delivery of achievable Net Zero practices and will highlight the most recent thinking work on this. As well as presentations, you will have an opportunity to put questions to the panel.
Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) have, for hundreds of years, played a crucial role across the African continent in ensuring a diverse diet for millions of people and sustaining biodiversity. However, there is no continental law governing seeds in Africa and corporates have taken this as an opportunity to grab resources from the agricultural sector - which still occupies 70 % of the population into Africa - and sell them seed, fertilizers and pesticides. In some regions various stakeholders such as seed companies and their allies, are promoting uniformity in the name of high yield seed and food security.
Despite the push of multiple legal-political instruments to install industrial seed systems as the vehicle of African agriculture, 80% of seeds used by farmers in Africa come from their own reserves. In this panel, organised by AFSA, we will learn about two levels of resistance to the African seeds takeover by industry: first is led by civil society organisations at sub regional level, engaging the push of seed law revision favourable to hybrid seeds and GMO’s. Second is at national levels where farmers’ organisations break the law by organising seed festivals; sharing indigenous seed, knowledge and practices.
COVID-19, Brexit and economic disruption are changing the UK sustainable food and drink markets, presenting new opportunities and challenges for organic farmers. This session outlines emerging trends and explores how farm businesses are adapting to build resilience in a time of change.
A changing world provides new opportunities and challenges for organic farmers.
Drawing on robust organic market trend data, and featuring speakers from flagship organic farm businesses, this session offers valuable insight into the performance of, and outlook for, the organic food and farming sector. It provides opportunities to see what these farm businesses are doing in response to an uncertain and changing market.
Hosted by Soil Association Certification and featuring speakers from Riverford, and The Ethical Dairy, we explore how organic operators are adapting their businesses and routes to market to maximise opportunities and build resilience into their sustainable food and drink markets.
We cannot prevent climate and ecological breakdown without radical change to the food we eat and how it is produced. The IPCC Special Report on Land Use shows the extent of change required to restore natural carbon sinks, to help mitigate against temperature rises of 2 degrees and beyond, and adapt to avoid the worst impacts such as flooding and food shortages.
The CEE Bill lays out a pathway for the creation of a strategy to deal with the Climate and Ecological Emergency, in line with the UK’s Paris Agreement 1.5oC commitments. Key points:
The UK Government and UK companies will be accountable for our entire emissions and ecological footprint resulting from all supply chains - international as well as domestic.
The UK Government will be obliged to protect and restore UK ecosystems to reverse the decline in biodiversity and crucially to protect and restore ecosystems that are of critical importance to help mitigate and adapt to climate change: our natural carbon sinks - peatlands, woodlands, soil, grasslands, wetlands as well as the oceans.
Our panel explores how this strategy might work in practice, in the creation of pathways to a fair and just transition to a zero carbon food system and a thriving natural world.
To understand food sovereignty, we must understand the current issue of power at the root of our food system. Indigenous leaders, Chris Newman and Jo Jandi not only recognise the centralisation of power but are also actively working to redistribute power in their local communities. How? By democratising and embedding food sovereignty into our food system. Chris brings his experience from Sylvanaqua Farms in the Northern Neck of Virginia, and Jo Jandi brings his experience with the Pun Pun Center for Self-Reliance and Thamturakit in Northern Thailand. The two are finding ways to address the local nuances that come with being in different places while finding common ground as they’re still fighting the same battle against the domination of industrial agriculture. With Chris’ focus on securing land for Indigenous and Black-American farmers, and Jo Jandai’s work to fight against neoliberal policies, the two will be able to share in their common experience and learn from one another.