The Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) in partnership with IIED  has launched the Food We Want project colourfully in London, UK on the 29th March 2012.

Food We Want is a European Union funded project launched in the UK on the 29th March 2012 with the collaboration of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) at its head office in London. This joint project has partners from UK, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. The project in Britain was launched by a panel organized by PENHA and IIED on “Food Security in Africa: Critical Issues for small Scale Producers”.

The first panelist Dr. Michel Pimbert, Principle Researcher, Natural resource group, IIED in his presentation entitled “Towards an Indigenous African agricultural revolution?” raised a number of critical issues where modern sciences and indigenous knowledge systems will together benefit farmers in Africa and consumers worldwide by raising the income of producers and also their sustainability. 

The second panelist Dr.Micheline Ravololonarisoa, International consultant and former chief Africa section of United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), discussed women working as farmers in small scale production systems. She said that women play a major role and contribute 70% of the production of food production but often see the loss of land right and have low access to loans and credits for their farms. Women mainly have access through men (father or husband or a family member). So they should be given training, access to resources (such as land, fertilizer, seeds) and also should be allowed to participate in credit schemes which will involve them in decision making. This will give them the status to secure food sovereignty.  

Dr. William Lume, Director of the Centre for Inter-African Relations (CEFIAR) and a lecturer in Development Studies at the London South Bank University, third panelist of the day, opened his presentation with the statement; “Food can only be secure in one’s own stomach.” He highlighted the priority with which the specific nutritional needs of the individual have to take precedence over general national food security. 

He also provided a historical narrative of food production-consumption relationships, whereby colonial rule in Sub-Saharan Africa was largely based on a combination of state and private capital geared towards the production of internationally tradable agricultural commodities at the expense of food or nutritional needs of the subjects; a path that has since been followed by the post independence leadership. 

At the end of the panel presentations, an open question and answer session with the audience showed a remarkable common understanding of food security and sovereignty.

The second part of the program continued with the launch of “Food We Want – Sustainable, Local and Fair”. Presentations were given about the overall project by Bereket Tsegay, National Coordinator UK and project campaign strategy by Menbere Hailemariam (Press Officer, UK). Comments and feedback about the project showed the great interest of the public about food security both in the developing and developed countries.

This event was followed by a reception with networking and an art exhibition with paintings reflecting pastoralists and farmers’ livelihoods and the problems faced by them in their day to day lives.