Participatory futures exercises to investigate the challenges in our food system

This collaborative project between the NGFP Sensing Network Members is supported by the NGFP Impact Fund

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Participatory futures for food system

The project engaged grassroots stakeholders in participatory futures exercises to investigate the challenges in our food system and speculating next steps. Nine participants from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa were invited to reflect on the urgency of actions, especially with the rise in climate crisis events. Participants were intimated on their roles to contribute to fixing food systems and empowered with the understanding of their agency with the aid of foresight processes. This addressed the status quo, agency, and urgency around the issue of food systems

Fisayo Oyewale
Walkabout Prizes Winner, 2021
Nigeria
Chiagozie Udeh
Sensing Network Member, Switzerland
Shem Omasire
Sensing Network Member, Kenya

“Food systems, when operating optimally, should guarantee food security for the populations that depend on them — that is, individuals, families, communities, nations, and regions — by ensuring that even those who are most vulnerable have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs, at all times and from non-emergency sources.” (FAO, 1996)

Impact

The scope of the project cuts across Africa, food systems, planetary crisis and individual roles. Its expected outputs are scenarios, seeds of Africa food futures, and actionable plans for improvement of food system.

After conducting the exercise with the participants, the main point of concern and emerging themes while discussing healthy food systems in Africa within the next 30 years are as follows:

  • Burgeoning population in Africa - Since 1967, Africa has had the fastest population growth rate, currently at 2.45%. This places pressure on food systems, necessitating the need to expand food production.
  • Tri-planetary crisis – Climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution featured heavily. Participants stressed the need to recognize the dual role of climate change in food systems. Not only does climate change have a negative impact on food systems, especially food production, conventional means of agriculture have contributed to accelerate climate change. Future food systems were also envisioned as having minimal to no pollution for air, water, and soil. This concept is highly related to that of waste in food systems, where zero waste futures are desired.
  • Sustainability – This is directly connected to the tri-planetary crisis, and involves the use of sustainable food production practices such as organic farming, conservation agriculture, and permaculture. Sustainability further extends to distribution, through the use of sustainable energy, for example, of electric mobility. Informed consumers are also more likely to have sustainable consumption habits.
  • Diversity and inclusion – The importance of diversity within food systems and inclusion of all societal groups, with a focus on women and youth. The robustness of food systems that have equal participation from women and youth was noted.
  • Factors of production – Land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship were covered from different angles. Participants appreciated the role that land plays in food production, hence affecting who gets to participate in food production. There was preference for cooperatively managed small-holder farms as contrasted to large industrial farms. The issue was labor involved the use of sustainable technologies in agriculture, so as to reduce farmer workload while increasing productivity. The lack of access to capital is a prevalent issue in food systems, leading to numerous suggestions on funding and provision of capital to interested grassroots stakeholders. The final factor of entrepreneurship is largely concerned with the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the individual entrepreneur. Participants proposed increasing food system stakeholder empowerment through education and training. These four factors also informed the suggestions to collectivise agriculture, most likely through supporting the formation and function of cooperative groups.
  • Regional integration - The multiple efficiencies and beneficence realised through regional integration of African countries was covered.

"Luxury African Food Commons" Scenario

The scenario imagines that in 20 years time, the African Union recognized food as commons, contrary to how it’s currently regarded as a commodity. It facilitated the establishment of a pan-African system network cooperation and collaboration to have a continental vegan food production and distribution network. The network coordinates farming, synthetic protein manufacture, and fresh produce for free to every African citizen.

Call to action

To take actionable steps to improve grassroots food systems in your country, please send an email to: shemasire@gmail.com or fisayooyewale@gmail.com.

You can also reach us to collaborate or partner with us to kickstart food systems conversation in your organisation or institution.

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