What do you do, when you come from a food producing area that is becoming rapidly urbanized and you are losing your farm lands? The Food Bridge’s new Eastern regional Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Uchechi Opararji-Denis faced such a challenge but started a project ( Youths initiative for agriculture) which is encouraging youths in his community to go back to farming and also preserve some of their farm lands for posterity. Their community is located near a state capital and owns vast lands thus many in the community now view land sales instead of agriculture as their main means of livelihood. It took some determination from this young man, to change back from land prospecting to farming. Although in the middle of an urban area, in his home garden he now grows different plants, crops; experiments with growing plants which previously were only found in forests, because the forests in his community are being lost to housing projects.
In collaboration with the Federation of Anglophone Africans Belgium and the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network, The Food Bridge is organizing an international forum in November in Brussels Belgium. This event will focus on the input of the African Diasporas in the agribusiness sector in the African continent. We believe members of the African diaspora are in a unique position to play an important role in the growing agribusiness and food sector in the continent.
The engagement of African entrepreneurs in agriculture and food production in the continent, is being promoted and given support by global agencies, yet non seem to take into consideration the role the African diaspora play in the agriculture and food sector in Africa. For the African diasporas, eating ‘home’ food is an important part of their daily lives in different parts of the world. There are many ‘African shops’ stocked with food grown in the continent in different cities in the developed countries. So insuring that there is a sustainable agriculture, producing safe African food is also of importance to many in the diaspora, as well as a continuos flow of ‘home’ food from Africa to the different African diaspora communities.
This event will be a follow up to our previous events focusing on the African food systems. This includes a conference in 2015 (5th November) at the European Parliament on “Food and Gender Implications in Global Food Systems” and another in 2014 (16th October 2014) on “Food and Power; the hunger games in Sub-Saharan African politics”.For this event, we will bring together development experts, policy makers, financial experts, African diaspora entrepreneurs and communities, to discuss the role and potentials of the African diasporas in the fight against food insecurity in Africa. We also intend to have an exhibition of African foods sold in the Diaspora food market, to help participants and policy makers understand the volume of this trade and the inherent potentials.
The conference was an initiative of The Food Bridge vzw, organized in collaboration with African Diaspora Network Europe, The Federation of Anglophone Africans Belgium, Actalliance EU and The FAO Brussels Office. It was hosted by MEP Louis Michel on the 5th of November 2015, at the European Parliament Brussels Belgium. In attendance were participants from different governmental and non-governmental agencies, diplomats, researchers, students, members of community based organizations including representatives from 30 African diaspora organizations from across Europe.
The presence of participants from diverse professional backgrounds and interests at the conference, was proof of a collective interest to seek solutions for the challenges our food systems face. The approaches may differ as shown in the presentations but the goals are the same, to have a sustainable food system and bring an end to hunger in our society. The conference brought together academics, development policy makers, female farmers and leaders of community based organizations, to explore gender roles in our food systems. Knowing the main role played by women in this area and the challenges they face, we focused on them as an important category of actors in food related sectors.
The conference had two sessions which were excellently moderated by Mr Gino Brunswijck, a Policy officer at the Africa Europe Justice and Faith Network (AEFJN) and Ms Marie Chantal Uwitonze, an Adviser to MEP Louis Michel and Founder, African Diaspora Network Europe(ADNE). Dr Maureen Duru, the Founder of The Food Bridge vzw, welcomed the participants and introduced the conference theme, highlighting the relevance of women in our food system.
The keynote paper was delivered by Prof Dr Peter Scholliers on Food, Gender and Migrants. This was followed by Karin Ulmer of Actalliance's paper on 'Gender and Food; seed issues in Africa', and Dr Nvenakeng Suzanne Awung, the Founder of the Forgotten Green Heroes, gave a paper on 'Gender discrimination in customary land-tenure systems and its influence on food production and poverty alleviation'. This first session was concluded with the paper of Mr Mustapha Sinaceaur, (Director FAO Brussels liaison office) on FAO's engagement in supporting women's roles in food systems through agribusiness and rural farming projects.
The Helping Hand Project