Hivos Southern Africa

Southern Africa

Sustainable Food

By Natalie Lartey (in photo above) and Bill Vorley, IIED

Food policies that are based on evidence and advocacy delivered by citizens are more likely to benefit the people most affected by these policies. At this week’s City University Food Policy Symposium, we heard how connecting people to policy can help secure healthy and more sustainable diets for everyone.

The current dominant agricultural model has run out of steam. It’s high time to replace it with one that is not only sustainable, but also efficient, inclusive and respectful of the planet and the people who produce and consume food.

Zambia’s vibrant youth are crucial to developing a prosperous agricultural sector. This means shaking off outdated perceptions and providing young people with the right incentives.

“Planting seeds of motivation”

Of late, we have seen a number of influential leaders set forth the huge potential of the agriculture sector in a number of African countries. Potential to not only feed burgeoning populations but to also drive a thriving export market - and in doing so, ramp up the continent’s economic growth.

(Photo by Tamara Kaunda for our partner IIED.)

We invest in a world where entrepreneurial local people are developing new solutions for some of the most challenging problems of our time. There are many other options for sustainably increasing food production and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers that we should look at first before considering investing in GM technology.

While acknowledging the lack of international consensus on the risks and benefits of using genetic modification (GM) technology, Hivos has strong reasons to be very cautious about the use and promotion of genetically modified crops.

The Zambian diet is mainly composed of cereals, predominantly maize, starchy roots and, to a lesser extent, fruit and vegetables. Cereals provide almost two-thirds of the dietary energy supply. According to the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC), one of the major causes of malnutrition is the mono diet practice.

On the surface at least, modern foods systems appear to be astonishingly diverse. A person walking into a supermarket almost anywhere in the world can be overwhelmed by the profusion of choices. The productivity of our food systems is also impressive: between 1961 and 2001, crop yields more than doubled in all regions of the developing world except Africa

From time immemorial, Zambia’s agriculture system has concentrated on promoting the same type of crop year in, year out. The dominance of maize appears to be a direct result of the country’s policy focus. Since independence, Zambia has promoted maize production by consistently supporting farmers through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). There has been a tendency to depend on the same crop even while it has shown signs of failure when conditions are not favorable. The situation has remained like this until today.

Hivos Southern Africa hosted a three day event on 14-16 June, 2017 to launch the collaboration between Hivos, Hivos Impact Investments and Welthungerhilfe in the Hivos Food and Lifestyle Fund. The three day event was divided into three parts that included a press conference, an ideation bootcamp and the official launch itself.

Today, most African youth seems uninterested in working in the coffee sector as they see it as an "old man's" hobby. However, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) states that it is women who form the majority of the world’s estimated total of 25 million coffee farmers.