Food sovereignty or food security?

Dr Adama DIOUF

President of Association of Departments of Senegal

1. Conceptual Clarification

In general, food sovereignty refers to the ability of a State to define and implement its own agricultural and food policy in the interests of its people, without compromising the ability of other states to access their own food sovereignty. The war in Ukraine, for example, has damaging consequences for World cereal production from other countries.

Similarly, over the past three years, COVID 19 has contributed to the deepening of the global economic recession, particularly in agricultural and food production.

Thus, the emergency policies put in place, on the recommendations of regional and international institutions, ECOWAS, African Union, UN, G20, among others, have always been unable to stem these adverse effects on food sovereignty.

Food Sovereignty aims, in the medium and long term, and in a comprehensive and integrated way, to develop the bio-food industry, to meet the needs and concerns of urban and rural populations, with this prerequisite of a food self-sufficiency planned in time and space, for a sustainable development.

However, food security would be of the short term. It is necessary to satisfy the immediate and nutritional needs of the populations, to eat daily to its hunger, to drink a healthy and quality water, and to heal oneself.

But in truth, there is no contradiction or opposition between the two concepts, there is rather an articulation or complementarity between the policies of sovereignty and food security. We would talk about food security/sovereignty, to say that there can be no one without the other for reasons of coherence of a global food and nutrition policy.

2. Territorial resources and development issues

Whether it is food security or food sovereignty, the territorial resource exists: sufficient arable land, the availability of water, agricultural know-how which has been increasingly modernised through mechanization with the support of the State, renewable energy for farms and agricultural transformations, a land base available and diversified in all its components, forestry, river, marine and land.

Therefore, we must be able to produce food in quantity and feed our people.

The Government of Senegal has clearly understood this by implementing The Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE), the only reference in our economic and social policy with a vision “of an emerging Senegal in 2035 with a solidarity society in a State of law.”

Recall that the PES is articulated around 3 strategic axes: -1- the structural transformation of the economy and growth, with the consolidation of the engines of growth and the development of new sectors creating wealth, -2- Human Capital, Social Protection and Sustainable Development for a Significant Improvement in People’s Living Conditions; More sustained fight against social inequalities while preserving the base of our resources, and fostering the emergence of viable territories -3- governance, institutions, peace and security. These are the strengthening of security, stability and governance, the protection of rights and freedoms and the consolidation of the rule of law in order to create the best conditions for social peace and to foster the full development of potential.

These three axes will, through their synergies and their convergent and cumulative effects, create the conditions for emergence.

In axis 1 of the PES, as indicated above, Senegal has therefore set the bet of inclusive economic growth from the primary sector. Budgets for agriculture, livestock and fisheries by the Government of Senegal have tripled in 10 years. Recently in the new government team, the food sovereignty dimension has been more emphasized to show the importance attached to this issue of food sovereignty by the President of the Republic Macky Sall, for sustainable economic development.

Some examples of food security/sovereignty policies implemented in this regard are:

- For rice: free seeds, modernization of rural equipment, structuring of the sector, and more hydro-agricultural arrangements, for food self-sufficiency;

- For cash crops, including groundnuts in particular: a revival of the sector was made with the replenishment of seed capital, the provision of certified seeds, the subsidy of fertilizers, the modernization of agricultural equipment, the setting of the price to the producer with sufficient incentive;

- For horticultural production: onion self-sufficiency (target achieved since 2015); horticultural exports increased by 69% between 2013 and 2018. The organizational dynamics of producers have been strengthened, and conservation infrastructures are increasingly modern and available.

Despite the efforts of recent years, challenges remain for 2023 and beyond:

- build a competitive, diversified and sustainable agriculture to fight poverty, and achieve the objectives of food sovereignty;

- implement a programme of adaptation to climate change and mitigation by boosting our agriculture, with suitable and quality seeds, fertilizers and other fertilisers at affordable cost, available plant health products, Strengthened human and technical capital.

To achieve this, we must accelerate growth and support this dynamic, mobilize the community of technical and financial partners, agricultural processing companies, industrial and agro-business, restaurant owners, fishermen, breeders, distributors, retailers, in short, public and private institutional actors, in a spirit of national solidarity, for the entire value chain, in order to offer and make available healthy food in quantity, at the right price, meeting a high standard of quality recognized and appreciated by all.

We must preserve our collective pantry and develop our territories by exploiting all their fisheries, dairy, animal, agricultural and forestry resources.

That is why the law on the national domain in Senegal has made land a community resource that cannot be sold or rented. Access to land is regulated so that it is a resource available to the population. This policy of fair and democratic access to land is the reason for the facilities made available to family farms. The family, however small, accesses the land next to the industrialist, with a device adapted to its human and financial resources. Even if the problem of land grabbing is still relevant in Senegal and Africa in particular.

Governments must be at the bedside of the communities to ensure that they have a minimum of subsistence, that is, a food ration of quality and quantity.

But the land question is far from an easy one. It is complex in its governance, and multifaceted in its sociological, historical and cultural configuration.

These issues of sovereignty and food security in our territories constitute major strategic issues for global actors, on all sides, whatever the level of development of the country, rich, aspirant or poor, today more than yesterday, for future generations.

It is in these conceptual and dynamic approaches that the territory remains a living space, a lived, a built, from the sea to the land. He’s what we did with it.

This dimension of experience expresses the existential, necessarily subjective relationship that the socialized individual establishes with the earth. The space is imbued with cultural, sociological and historical values reflecting for each the belonging to a localized group; its knowledge goes through listening to the actors, its appropriation by taking into account their practices, their spatial representations and imaginations.

For this purpose, the territory is “a crossroads between man and his society”.

Let our agricultural policies take all these dimensions into account, in our local authorities, in compliance with environmental and sustainable development standards; this is a guarantee of a mobilization of energy, guarantee of food sovereignty.

The territory, specifically the territorial collectivity, is at the heart of the problem of food sovereignty.

3. National and global challenges

The agricultural land is a natural resource that must be developed. The same is true of the coastal land for our artisanal or The European Union’s Food Security Council, which provides opportunities that deserve consideration in any public policy on food sovereignty.

The forest area also has the same expectations in terms of its optimal exploitation.

The issue of land grabbing by the «strongest», the industrialists, agro-business, should hold our attention, as well as the pejoration of our forest and mining resources. I was referring earlier to the National Domain Law that governed the management of agricultural land in Senegal. But challenges remain at the national and global levels.

Our territorial development plans (PCD, PDD, PRD) drawn up by local and regional authorities, with the support of the State, should further integrate these concerns. Local government organizations, as well as central governments, are involved here, within the framework of a democratic management and proximity to the problems of the populations, including food for all, that is, a healthy and accessible diet.

The still significant global challenges remain a good policy of food self-sufficiency, security/sovereignty and even independence in the field of agriculture, food and nutrition.

This means stimulating reflection and sharing knowledge, encouraging innovation and ensuring technology transfer, supporting investment and facilitating access to appropriate financing levers, and finally diversifying the key sectors.

In Senegal and Africa in particular, our products still need to be labelled and bear our remarkable identity, our national emblem. To ensure that our industries are champions, jewels to boost our economy, our identity «made in Senegal», «made in mali», «made in Niger» with a sustained territorial marketing process.

Whether it is in our homes, in our restaurants, in our grocery stores, that our local products are a priority in our consumption. Eating Senegalese food, eating local Senegalese, Malian or Chilean products, must not only be seen as a guarantee of safety and quality, but also a source of pride for our national identity.

The territory is, in this respect, an entity of the society that inhabits it; territorial identity is as much a strategy as it is a resource in development processes. “Winning territories generally have a strong identity,.

The origin of identity is a set of values that the partners share, as well as a pride that reflects the desire “to be together to do it together”.

Identity is initially built with specific resources as part of a common development project. Identity makes it possible to be not only known but also recognized. The identity of the territory is a factor of social strength.

This gamble can be won if global governance emphasizes active solidarity south – south, and north – south built on a winning, equitable and dignified partnership platform.

But we also need fewer security conflicts, in our urban, rural and cross-border territories, less selfishness between actors, and more social justice, peace and democracy.

These are some of the challenges for food sovereignty for all, zero hunger in the world. Everyone has a role to play.


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