On 1 and 8 August 2023, the African Climate Foundation (ACF) was pleased to launch its African Food Systems Transformation Collective and co-hosted two engagements, convened by the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (Co-EFS).
“As a result of climate change, African food systems are going to be decimated,” said Malik Dasoo, Programme Officer for Sustainable Land Use and Agriculture at the ACF.
During the engagement, which brought together food systems researchers and activists, Dasoo pointed out that millions of people will face acute famine within the next decade if serious action is not taken.
“There is also a chronic issue of slow violence as a result of how African food systems are configured,” said Florian Kroll, the project lead and researcher at the DSI-NRF CoE-FS. “When people feel food insecure, they prioritize cheap foods and those are the kinds of things that in the long run will lead to lots of noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes.” In addition, he pointed out, “The long term developmental potential and well-being of children are going to be harmed.”
Various universities and key civil society organisations were represented. Florian pointed out that there was “a fairly broad representation from countries in East and Southern Africa, and West Africa but… North Africa and Central Africa [were] somewhat underrepresented. Hopefully, we can grow the network in those spaces, and this is one of the intentions also of this network.”
The African Food Systems Transformation Collective aims to address the pressing challenges posed by African food systems. These systems, which both contribute and are vulnerable to climate change, have been grappling with numerous other crises.
Kroll highlighted the multiple crises that face African food systems. Foremost among these is climate change. “But it is important to emphasize that climate change, although perhaps the most massive change to be anticipated, intersects with a bunch of other crises, including biodiversity loss, soil degradation, resource depletion, urbanization, and population growth,” he said.
Climate change has emerged as a prominent issue, intertwining with other ecological and social challenges, posing a serious threat to the future of food security on the continent. As Florian said, “We cannot ignore the fact that African food systems play a role in climate change. They are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, they are disproportionately impacted by the consequences of global warming.”
In response to these challenges, the African Food Systems Transformation Collective aims to foster sustainable, resilient, and just food systems that can both mitigate and adapt to climate change and align with the 13 principles of agroecology: recycling, input reduction, soil health, animal health, biodiversity, synergy, economic diversification, co-creation of knowledge, social values and diets, fairness, connectivity, land and natural resource governance, and participation. However, this ambitious goal faces significant obstacles, most notably inadequate and poorly-coordinated funding.
Dasoo highlighted the critical importance of financial support in achieving transformative change. “We need coherent and evidence-based funding strategies to drive the transition to sustainable food systems,” he said. “But the existing funding landscape is often fragmented and fails to address the holistic needs of this complex challenge.”
He added, “We decided to set up the African Food Systems Transformation Collective to use [the Collective’s] experience, knowledge and expertise to inform financing strategies that can be taken up by donors and the philanthropic community more broadly to make sure that we are using our funding in the optimal way.”
The inception meetings marked the commencement of an inclusive dialogue that brought together diverse stakeholders with a shared commitment to address the multi-dimensional crises facing African food systems. These discussions aimed to facilitate collaborative efforts in shaping effective funding strategies to support the much-needed transformation.
Participants acknowledged that traditional approaches to funding were insufficient in addressing the interconnectedness of food system challenges. They advocated for a transformative approach that would embrace innovation, empower local communities, and promote sustainable practices.
A key aspect highlighted during the inception meetings was the significance of research in informing evidence-based funding strategies. By leveraging their expertise and networks, researchers can provide valuable data and analysis to help identify effective interventions. This, in turn, will enhance the coherence and impact of funding efforts aimed at transforming African food systems.
Kroll concluded the inception meetings by pointing to the next steps. These included establishing research clusters and identifying research partners to work on specific research outputs. The inception meetings will be followed up with in person workshops. The locations and host institutions for those workshops are still to be identified. As the inception meetings concluded, the shared determination to create a better future for African food systems shone through.
For more information on the Collective, click here.