Development indicators show that for the past 30 years or so, Africans have become hungrier as some of their land has been grabbed, starvation has increased, locally produced food has declined and dependency on the international market has risen.

The Regional Director for Africa, United Nations Millenium Campaign (UNMC), Mr. Charles Abugre states that the MDG 1 seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, yet issues to do with nourishment are still a big challenge in the region.

“The picture of the famine in Ethiopia of a starving baby with flies on his eye, that imagery has been retained. The imagery on the situation in Malawi sometime back has also been used to represent the face of Africa. It is very important to not only address the imagery of starving people but to also transform the society long into the future. “An undernourished person will not be able to compete well with the other ones who are well fed. The undernourished are susceptible to diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure when they become adults,” states Charles.

Wendy Gichuru making her presentation

Wendy Gichuru making her presentation

He notes that when the MDG’s were created at the dawn of the new millennium, they were crafted to give possibilities for accountability; they suggested an opportunity to think of a different society. That food and nutrition is very significant to the ability of people to become better persons as it necessitates better and fulfilled lives.

“Producing food is important but people who get access to the food is equally important. Small-scale food producers need to be supported as they are the bedrock of farming. They are responsible for feeding the ordinary people while the larger farms feed companies and not necessarily families,” he adds.

Reverend Nicta Lubaale the General Secretary of the OAIC opines that the survival of the small-holder farmers by and large needs to be incorporated in the discussions of the bigger policies and ensure that they get on board in the discussions.

Charles states that there is need for everyone to envision a post 2015 agenda after the expiry of the MDG’s. That it is everyone’s responsibility to be part of a voice that seeks to address such issues as food security in their various countries and ensure that such issues of concern become part of the political agenda.

“The exciting thing about finding a voice is that it enables people to find practical ways to be better. It changes the balance of power. We need to shape agenda’s from the bottom up as it should be something that we can all be able to recognise and associate with,” urged Charles.

Many challenges abound even as farmers try to make headway in ensuring that there is food to feed nations.

Elder Sanyaolu Solomon Abioudun - Nigeria -

Elder Sanyaolu Solomon Abioudun - Nigeria -

Sanyaolu Solomon Abioudun, a delegate and a farmer from Nigeria notes that middle men have played a big role in ensuring that farmers don’t get good returns for their investments.

“In Nigeria the middle men are the ones who make farming untenable. They actually make much money than the farmers. They are the ones who set the prices for the farmers. They get the produce, take to the market and when asked how much the market price is they say that the prices were not good. They pay the farmers what they like. Storage is also another issue that needs to be properly looked into. Nigeria produces large quantities of tomatoes but sometimes when the market is not conducive and the farmers think that they will get a raw deal, they decide to just let their tomatoes rot in their gardens. I am sure if they had storage facilities, no food would be going to waste,” states Elder Sanyaolu.

The Regional co-ordinator for East and Central Africa for the United Church of Canada (UCC), Wendy Gichuru states that she is a firm believer in the ability of the church through partnerships to transform the systems of injustice.

“The UCC cares so much about these issues at hand. Our people have resources and the “emergencies” we experience from time to time, are not unexpected. They were foreseen. We need to look at the root causes and ask ourselves why the earth is groaning and the ability to transform the systems. We are committed to systemic justice on gender, race and class. We uphold the just sharing of resources, recognising their variety and that all resources are God’s resources,” she states.

Pastor Penson Patson Nentha from Zimbabwe notes that it is a sad reality that sometimes the harvest is in plenty but accessing the market is proving to be an uphill task. That stakeholders need to seriously address the issues of opening up the market.

A senior Economic Advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Fatu Leigh however, states that it’s a high time African countries stopped depending on other markets outside of Africa since they can also get better bargains in the regional markets.

“We should stop underestimating our own markets. There is need for us to diversify and stop depending on a single market. There is also the need for us to organise ourselves properly as the larger markets work for those who are organised. Individual farmers may not have a big voice compared to groups, regional blocs. Groups will always make headway compared to individuals,” she advises.

Patson Netha -Zimbabwe delegate-

Patson Netha -Zimbabwe delegate-

Charles says that the problem of food is that it’s not like any other commodity. That it is so central that countries like Japan with poor soil structures have to grow foods like rice that do not necessarily perform well.

“Food is so different and that is why it’s so important that the agricultural policies need to be looked at properly, but the question is who is shaping these policies? Policies about me should be discussed with me and not without me. The trouble as can be witnessed in the East African region is that policies are shaped without the people themselves in mind,” he states.

“In Kenya it is known very well that if you play with the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) as a politician, you will lose you parliamentary seat. I am sure if we curve the problem of food security well to be an issue of concern in the political sphere, we will succeed. There is need to turn the whole issue of food security into a positive political issue and those concerned will listen and respond. That the role of the church is policy change and this ensures that the point is well driven home,” states Reverend.

Issues like corruption in the agricultural sector have been noted with challenges of extension officers and other experts being paid for services they did not render. Some delegates suggested that people who go to church should be able to join such institutions to transform them but Reverend Nicta thinks otherwise.

“When we say that these extension officers and other agricultural officers are corrupt what does that mean? The thieves are in churches and mosques.  They attend services with us. As a church what role are you playing in ensuring that you hold your members accountable? Everyone needs to be accountable to their church with his or her behaviour. I am accountable to mine,” he stated.

Deo Wabwire from Uganda notes that his country encourages investors. He however, has an issue with government’s decision to encourage sugar cane production in Busoga which he notes was Uganda’s food basket. “We used to plant value-addition crops but the government is now pushing for the planting of sugar which does not make any sense to me, it is not a value addition crop,” he states.

Charles notes further that Kenya and Ethiopia are examples of countries that should be emulated as they have been able to use co-operative Societies to organise the farmers and empower them.

Solomon Gichira a delegate from Kenya says that there is a lot of information on agriculture that would benefit farmers but they are not privy to it.

Marie, Faustine and Charles having discussions during the tea break.

Marie, Faustine and Charles having discussions during the tea break.

“It’s a high time the government thought of assisting farmers and ensure that they know the farming practices that could be beneficial to them. For example not very many farmers are aware of the seasonal crops that could earn them commendable returns. I have been part of a team that advised some farmers to forego crops like the maize and plant the green grams. When they had bumper harvest, they appreciated the advice and thus the need to help farmers make informed decisions,” says Solomon.

He says that the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has all the information required to improve farming in the Sub-Saharan region but they lack money for outreach. Policies that seek to reach out to the farmers should be well thought out.

Faustine Wabwire a Senior Foreign Assistant Policy analyst from Bread for the World USA says that strong action plans need to be developed after the food conference to ensure that people are able to take up challenges on food security.

“I love the fact that we are passionate about our continent. We have seen people who have plans for Africa but most of the plans they make are not in the interest of Africa. We need to see Africa move forward.

Wendy states that the UCC is ppassionate about issues that seek to enhance the people’s livelihoods, lead responsibilities for just initiatives and global partnerships.

“We are called to share resources and experiences, build relationships of respect, work to address effects of unjust systems,” she says.

Wendy Gichuru - UCC - and Reverend Nicta.

Wendy Gichuru - UCC - and Reverend Nicta.

The UCC is the largest protestant denomination in Canada with close to 3 million members in 3,362 congregations in Canada. UCC partners with various organisations that seek responsibility for justice initiatives, global partnership ecumenical and inter-faith relations.

They were deliberating during the Growing the Harvest Food Conference at the Jumuia Conference centre in Limuru.

The conference was a partnership between the Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), the United Church of Canada (UCC), the United Nations Millenium Campaign (UNMC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Fiona Imbali,

OAIC Communications

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