Weaponizing Science in Global Food Policy

Civil Society, Food & Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, Food Sustainability, Global, Green Economy, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Opinion

SANTA CRUZ, California, Jun 25 2021 (IPS) – In July, the United Nations will convene “Science Days”, a high-profile event in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit later this year. Over the course of two days, the world will be treated to a parade of Zoom sessions aimed at “highlighting the centrality of science, technology and innovation for food systems transformation.”


Maywa Montenegro

Nobody disputes the need for urgent action to transform the food system. But the UNFSS has been criticized by human rights experts for its top-down and non-transparent organization. Indigenous peoples, peasants, and civil society groups around the world know their hard-won rights are under attack. Many are protesting the summit’s legitimacy and organizing counter-mobilizations.

Scientists are also contesting a summit because of its selective embrace of science, as seen in a boycott letter signed by nearly 300 academics, from Brazil to Italy to Japan.

Through the Summit, “science” has been weaponized by powerful actors not only to promote a technology-driven approach to food systems, but also to fragment global food security governance and create institutions more amenable to the demands of agribusiness.

Recipe for Elite Global Governance

The UNFSS was announced in 2019 by the UN Secretary General as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The announcement came just after the UN signed a strategic partnership with the World Economic Forum. It also elicited outcry from social movements when Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, was chosen to lead the forum — a powerful signal of UNFSS allegiances.

The “multi-stakeholder” structure of the summit has raised concerns from observers who recognize the privatization of multilateral public governance it presages. While Kalibata describes the UNFSS as an inclusive “peoples’ summit,” more than 500 smallholder and peasant organizations signed a letter criticizing the summit’s multi-stakeholder platforms: “Instead of drawing from the innovative governance experiences that the UN system has to offer, the UN-WEF partnership is helping to establishing “stakeholder capitalism” as a governance model for the entire planet.”

Matthew Canfield

Through one lens, multistakeholderism looks like a set of “inclusive” practices: the summit has five Action Tracks (e.g. “Ensuring Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All” and “Boosting Nature Positive Production at Sufficient Scale”), an endless number of “dialogues,” and an elaborate online forum where anyone can participate.

However, this profusion of spaces obscures the fact that the UNFSS has no built-in structures of accountability. This is particularly troublesome because, as UN special rapporteurs have observed, the summit’s process was pre-determined by a small set of actors: “The private sector, organizations serving the private sector (notably the World Economic Forum), scientists, and economists initiated the process. The table was set with their perspectives, knowledge, interests and biases.”

The scientific ideas shaping those parameters, then, should invite our curiosity and concern. What kinds of science are included — and excluded? What are the implications for the future of global food system governance?

Defining Science as Investment-Friendly Innovation

A new Scientific Group of the UNFSS, created to support a “science- and evidence-based summit,” provides some clues. In theory, the Scientific Group works to “ensure the robustness, breadth and independence of the science that underpins the summit and its outcomes.” In practice, the Group’s practices impoverish the scientific base on which the summit is meant to make policies.

Unlike existing global science advisory panels where experts are nominated through an inclusive and democratic process, the Scientific Group is handpicking experts amenable to “game-changing” solutions — access to gene-edited seeds, digital and data-driven technologies, and global commodity markets.

Alastair Iles

As a result, key areas of expertise, such as agroecology, Indigenous knowledge, and human rights are being excluded while industry and investor-friendly viewpoints are promoted as visionary.

While the Scientific Group appears at first to be diverse in terms of disciplines and geographies, it in fact reflects a set of overlapping, elite networks. Partners include well-worn institutional champions of the Green Revolution (the CGIAR), the central nervous system for “free trade” policy globally (the World Trade Organization), and a powerful consortium of wealthy nation-states (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), among others.

By drawing on these networks, the Scientific Group is serving as a gatekeeper for determining the meaning and boundaries of “science.” An analysis of its publications reveals critical flaws stemming from the Scientific Group’s narrow approach to scientific expertise. These include:

    • Science, technology, and innovation are uprooted from their political-economic and social conditions. As a result, structural drivers that produce hunger even as they generate wealth (e.g. for Bill Gates) are eclipsed in favor of boosting productivity with a twist of sustainability.
    • Biotechnology, Big Data, and global value chains are offered as the solution to all agronomic problems and the crisis of overfishing.
    • Multicultural “digital” inclusion is redeployed to promote Black, Brown, and Indigenous incorporation into an imperial model of Science, Technology, and Innovation. This ignores the rich knowledge these communities already hold — and obscures that Indigenous and agroecological knowledge cannot survive without land.

Science can and should play a role in global food governance. But far from the current UNFSS model, science can support in all its complexity and breadth, alongside many other expertises with equal rights to shape the future of food.

Maywa Montenegro works as an assistant professor of Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, specializing in politics of knowledge, biotechnology, and agroecology.

Matthew Canfield is an assistant professor of Law and Society & Law and Development at Leiden Law School specializing in human rights and global food governance.

Alastair Iles works as an associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, researching agroecology policies and sustainability transitions.

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Harness Youth to Change World’s Future

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Gender, Global, Green Economy, Headlines, Human Rights, Inequity, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Women & Climate Change

Women bear the brunt of climate change disasters. Credit: Women Deliver

NEW YORK, Mar 31 2020 (IPS) – Vanessa Nakate of Uganda may have been cropped out of a photograph taken at the World Economic Forum, but she along with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg have made the climate crisis centre stage.


Women Deliver Young Leader Jyotir Nisha discusses with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada on how to harness young people to overcome gender inequality and address climate change in a recent wide-ranging interview.

Quesada says key strategies to designing policy to fight climate change require unconventional decision-making to address challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, the fourth industrial revolution, and inequality.

“These are intertwined factors that can hinder development if unattended but, if tackled, they could potentially accelerate progress and wellbeing for all,” he says.

“And, of course, this is a task that young leaders are able to handle and produce the timely answers that are necessary.”

Bringing in her experience in the non-profit sector, Nisha says training girls and women in up-cycling plastic waste to produce handmade goods has assisted them to contribute to their family income and their empowerment in the community. The question is, how can this be broadened.

Quesada says women, in particular young women, are leading the way.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Credit: Women Deliver

“From cooperative seed banks, to early warning networks, from solar engineers to women politicians carving a path of sustainable policymaking. They are at the forefront of forest conservation, sustainable use of resources, and community enhancement, and restoration of landscapes and forest ecosystems,” he says.

However, women’s roles are often underestimated, unrecognised, and unpaid.

“Women and girls with access to technology have already begun developing innovative tools to reduce emissions by targeting sustainable consumption and production practices, including food waste, community waste management, energy efficiency, and sustainable fashion.”

The solutions exist, but much more is needed.

“It takes a whole-of-society approach for collaboration and cooperation on a bigger and enhanced scale.”

The President suggests that the way investments are made could be fundamental to ensure a flow of finance to the communities, including women, and youth. This will, he believes, provide “a stable source of funding for businesses and services that contribute to the solution of social or environmental challenges.”

The impact of this will be partnerships between traditional sources of finance, like international cooperation and development banks, and new partners, like philanthropy, hedge funds, or pension funds.

“And what better than young people giving the thrust that all this requires?”

Nisha says she was pleased to see the massive mobilisation of young people at the inaugural Climate Action Summit last year. The summit had little good news for climate change with concerns raised that the accelerating rise in sea level, melting ice would have on socio-economic development, health, displacement, food security and ecosystems. However, beyond taking to the streets, they also need to hold decision-makers accountable.

“In the last months we have witnessed the irruption of massive mobilisations in different parts of the world, lead mostly by young people. This would seem surprising for a generation that has been accused several times of passivity, indifference, and individualism,” Quesada says. “I truly believe that, as long as these demands are channelled through democratic and pacifist means, they are extremely important to set a bar and a standard of responsibility for us, decision-makers — who are, by the way, more and more often, young people.”

He adds that world leaders owe them explanations of the decisions made.

“We must also have the wisdom to pay attention to these demands and take into account their opinions and proposals to reach agreements that have the legitimacy of consensus-building.”

However, Nisha notes, while campaigns like the Deliver for Good campaign is working across sectors reports at COP25, and the recent World Economic Forum (Davos), “climate change continues to threaten progress made toward gender equality across every measure of development.”

At WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2020 showed that it would take more than a lifetime, 99.5 years in 2019 for gender parity across health, education, work and politics to be achieved.

Quesada says the climate catastrophe “demands that policymakers and practitioners renew commitments to sustainable development — at the heart of which is, and must continue to be, advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, and realising women’s rights as a pre-requisite for sustainable development.”

Costa Rica, he says, has been recognised internationally on two significant areas: the respect of human rights and environmental protection.

“The present Administration has taken these objectives a step further by paying particular attention to women’s rights, inclusion, and diversity, and including them as part of our core policy principles and our everyday practices,” he says. “We expect to increase women’s integration into productive processes and achieve women’s economic empowerment through specific policies linked to our long-term development strategy — the Decarbonization Plan — allowing the transformational changes our society needs.

However, the critical question, Nisha says, is: “What can world leaders and governments do today to ensure young people have a seat at the decision-making table?”

Quesada is confident that young people will be part of the solution.

“The challenges we are facing today are unprecedented precisely because previous generations did not have to face situations such as biodiversity loss, global warming, or the emergence of artificial intelligence and technology. Thus, we need new answers and solutions from Twenty-First Century people, and those should and will be put forward by the youth,” he says.

The importance of youth involvement was recently highlighted too at the meeting of African Leaders for Nutrition in Addis Ababa. African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said Africa should invest in skills development for the youth so the continent’s entrepreneurs can leverage emerging technologies to transform Africa’s food system to generate new jobs. This is especially urgent as the population on the continent is expected to double to 2.5 billion people in 40 years putting pressure on governments to deliver more food and jobs in addition to better livelihoods.

In a recent interview with IPS International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, explained that this change is neither easy or necessarily something all leadership has taken on board.

“Our legacy is starting a programme to change the mindset of the youth in agriculture. Unfortunately (with) our governments that is where you have to go and change mindsets completely. Most probably 90 per cent of our leaders consider agriculture as a social activity basically for them its (seen as a) pain, penury. They proclaim that agriculture is a priority in resolving our problems, but we are not investing in it. We need that mindset completely changed.”

Quesada is unequivocal that this attitude needs to change.

“My advice to world leaders is to have the humility to listen to the people and to allow more inclusive and participatory decision-making. And to the young people, I can only encourage them to own their future, and to act accordingly, with vision, courage, and determination.”

 

2020 Is the Decade of Action & It Has to Be a Sprint

Africa, Armed Conflicts, Climate Change, Conferences, Crime & Justice, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Labour, Peace, Poverty & SDGs, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Opinion

Hosted by the governments of Kenya, Denmark and UNFPA, world leaders gather for the 3-day Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 to advance sexual, reproductive health & rights for all. November 12, 2019. Photo Courtesy: Redhouse Public Relations

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 2019 (IPS) – Happy New Year, Kenya. 2020 marks a decade of action towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Peace and development are inextricably linked, with each making the achievement of the other far more likely. This puts the conflict-prevention and development work of the UN at the heart of the agenda in East Africa, but in a multi-agency and programme environment, making meaningful progress is challenging.


Aware of this, the UN began a process of structural reforms led by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres who made reforms of the United Nations, a priority at the very beginning of his term in January 2017. The aim being to deliver better results through cooperation, collaboration and integration. 2019 was the year that the impact of these reforms became real and nowhere more than in the peace, conflict-prevention and development pillars of the UN’s work.

At the country level, that shift towards a nimble, 21st century UN challenges deeply entrenched practices and operations. In a country team with over 23 individual agencies, funds and programmes, the reform process can be complicated, even messy.

To the credit of the Kenya country team, we overcame the challenges of ceding long-held agency interests for the collective good and achieved some ground-breaking milestones in our partnership with governments, civic organizations and the private sector.

The most outstanding was our venturing out to confront challenges that transcend borders. East Africa faces major threats to peace and development across multiple fronts, and respective UN country teams have, in a remarkable show of teamwork, sought to harmonize their responses to these threats. Internecine border conflicts and the effects of climate change together make a formidable challenge that brought together UN teams from Kenya and Uganda, in a pact that seeks to bring sustainable development to the Karamoja triangle.

This pact follows from another successful regional collaboration project on the Kenya-Ethiopia border where communities accustomed to recurrent hostilities are now reaching out to each other to find solutions to common socio-economic challenges.

We believe that our regional surge towards prevention, peacemaking and diplomacy will have a particular impact on the youth, who suffer an enduring sense of being neglected and ignored. This narrative is a breeding ground for extremism and radicalization, so addressing such concerns was a key point of deliberation during last July’s African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Nairobi.

The same regional approach was behind the initiative by Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia to sign the Declaration and Action Plan to End Cross-border FGM in April 2019. This was the first time multiple countries had come together to tackle this pernicious cross-border crime.

But there remain many in the region still left behind by development, and we continue to stand up for them through our UN Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022. The framework’s gender equality and rights focus is unmistakable, because in too many communities, the simple fact of being born female shatters one’s chances of living in full human dignity.

Our focus on giving a leg-up to those left farthest behind has attracted a positive response from our partners in national and county governments. By staying in lockstep with national priorities on issues such as health, agriculture and housing, the common thread of messages from our partners is that we are staying effective and responsive to the ambitions of Kenyans.

As 2020 beckons, the decade of action starts and it has to be a sprint to deliver on the SDGs, the UN team in Kenya is rolling up its sleeves with greater urgency, ambition and innovation. We will enhance regional cooperation and private-public partnerships as we work with the Government towards lifting millions of the citizens of this region out of poverty and upholding their human rights.

We are re-imagining ways of delivering development in ways such as the co-creation of an SDG innovation lab between the Government of Kenya, the Centre for Effective Global Action at the University of California in Berkeley, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the UN. The SDG Lab will kick off with support for the delivery of Kenya’s Big Four agenda by harnessing, big data, technology and innovation to achieve scale and impact.

As a UN country team, we got off the blocks in 2019 in pursuit of UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed’s challenge to “flip the orthodoxy” for the repositioning of the UN. We have dared to go beyond the typical and will do whatever it takes to respond effectively to the challenges faced by Kenya’s people, now and in the future.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

 

Indigenous Knowledge, a Lesson for a Sustainable Food Future

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Health, Indigenous Rights, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

BCFN Yes winner Geraldin Lengai is researching bio-integrated crop management among tomato farmers in Tanzania. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

MILAN, Italy, Dec 4 2019 (IPS) – Local knowledge systems rooted in traditional practices and culture passed down generations provide sustainable solutions to food and nutritional insecurity on the back of climate change, a conference heard this week.


More than 370 million indigenous people, living in 70 countries, make up just 6 percent of the global population, according to the United Nations. But their food systems are models of diet diversity, innovation, conservation and local adaptability the world can benefit from in the face of risks such as climate change, delegates at the 10th Forum on Food and Nutrition convened by the Barilla Centre heard.

Speaking at a panel session on Preserving Mother Earth, Food Culture, Local Traditions and Biodiversity, Mattia Prayer Galletti, lead technical specialist on indigenous peoples and tribal issues at IFAD, said indigenous peoples have a connection with nature. They understand the concept of sustainability and the protection of natural resources.

IFAD has promoted an Indigenous People’s Forum to foster dialogue and consultant among indigenous people organisations and IFAD member countries. Through this Forum, IFAD has supported the economic empowerment of indigenous people, particularly women and the youth. IFAD has also contributed to the improvement in livelihoods of indigenous peoples through the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility which has provided small grants of up to US$50 000 for development projects.

He said indigenous food systems provide food security and biodiversity because indigenous communities have cultivated resilient foods, making them ideal in adapting to climate change. This despite the growing threats indigenous communities have faced, including marginalisation, loss of their ancestral lands and the destruction of their way of life.

Dali Nolasco Cruz, an advisory board member of the Indigenous Terra Madre (ITM) from Mexico. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

Dali Nolasco Cruz, an advisory board member of the Indigenous Terra Madre (ITM) from Mexico, concurred saying indigenous people are being criminalised and killed by big powers that are extracting natural resources in their lands.

“We need alliances, we need to fight for Mother Earth,” Cruz said, “We need to transform our livelihoods by protecting the Earth to help others.”

Indigenous Innovations for food security

Indigenous knowledge provides innovations researchers are convinced can provide models for promoting resilience in our current food systems. Several researchers shared their on-going work on this.

Martina Occelli, a PhD student at the Santa Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, is undertaking multidisciplinary research on how smallholder farmer’s collective knowledge is shaping soil productivity in the Gera Gera region of Ethiopia among 300 smallholder farmers. The research has shown that collective knowledge within and between households which farmers learnt from their fathers was relevant in determining the soil ability, which is critical in food production and resilience.

Martina Occelli speaks at the 10th International Forum on Food and Nutrition. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

Occelli is a winner of 2018 BCFN Yes international multidisciplinary contest launched by the BCFN Foundation in 2012 to support research on promoting the intersection of food sustainability and environmental sustainability.

Geraldin Lengai, another BCFN Yes winner, is researching on enhancing sustainable agriculture through the adoption of bio-integrated crop management among tomato farmers in Tanzania comparing conventional and non-conventional farming methods. Her research expects to provide insights into the use of organic pesticide properties of ginger and turmeric – cash crops grown by farmers in Tanzania – in fighting pests and diseases in vegetables. Also, she has researched the efficacy of organic fertilisers such as goat manure and chicken manure on the productivity of the spice coriander and amaranthus, a plant cultivated as a vegetable.

“Sustainable agriculture is important because you need a doctor once in a while, but you need the farmer at least three times a day,” Lengai told IPS. “I believe people should have access to food that is safe and healthy. How we produce the food, process it and how the food reaches the end consumer is the business of sustainable agriculture, and my research is on crop protection because people use crop protection synthetically yet there are alternatives that nature has provides. Before synthetic pesticides, our forefathers used tobacco to control insects, and if we can look at other plants that have the same capacity, we can promote sustainable agriculture.”

Lengai said the benefits of manure has in producing vegetables and the near to zero cost for farmers who keep animals means farmers have a sustainable fertiliser for organic produce which is attractive for global markets. Citing the case of pesticides with the Kenya market for French beans, Lengai said organic produce had secured international markets which have traceability systems in place.

“Growing organic vegetables and using organic pesticides and fertilisers is a win-win for everybody for the environment, for the farmer for the consumer,” said Lengai. She added that synthetic pesticides are favoured because they are easy to apply and cheaper – but come at a cost to the environment and health.

 

Fixing the Business of Food

Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Health, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment

Delegates grappled with getting the business of food right. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

MILAN, Italy, Dec 4 2019 (IPS) – Milan is the city where Leonardo da Vinci painted his iconic Last Supper. Frozen in time is the moment Christ told his disciples there was a traitor among them. Visitors to the painting can examine the expressions on the faces of the disciples and look the food they might have eaten – the bread and wine, and of course the spilt salt. As one delegate to the 10th International Forum on Food and Nutrition noted, the diet did not seem varied or healthy.


Several centuries later, with the spotlight firmly on the state of our planet, global warming, delegates grappled solutions for producing and consuming food, nutrition and the state of the earth. Taking centre stage was the question of the roles, activists, workers, businesses and leadership play in the food cycle.

Mario Monti, Senator for Life of the Italian Republic; articulated the challenge succinctly. The forum with the theme Fostering Business and Innovation while preserving Mother Earth he said, provided a “beautiful challenge” dedicated to securing food for people to inhabit the planet.

Ertharin Cousin, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, referred to a conundrum that while in the United States 1450 deals were signed across 1000 agri-food tech start-ups none of the businesses focused on addressing the challenges of low-income people.

It was clear from the presentation by Jeremy Oppenheim, Founder and Managing Partner, SYSTEMIQ the food system’s hidden costs amounting to $12 trillion, including food subsidies – that the food system is dysfunctional.

Many speakers alluded to resolving the conundrum involving complex interplays between activism; innovative business practice and digital innovation, financing and political commitment.

Changing the culture of business and financing of companies was considered a major consideration which needed change to fix the food system.

Ben Valk, Lead Food and Agriculture Benchmark, commented that, for example, there were solutions which reduce the pressure on land and therefore on deforestation.

“First things we should do is to start to implement those solutions,” he said, but added that it astonishing to that so little money was allocated towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Change was needed and money allocated to sport for, example, should be reduced to ensure the SDGs were achieved.

Charlotte Ersbøll, representing the United Nations Global Compact, commented that businesses should be aware that employees were committed to sustainable practices. She referred to a study done in the US where half of all the staff would accept a salary cut if they were if they could work for a more climate-friendly company. “And if you look at the millennials, it would be two thirds. And, and all of them were frustrated that they really didn’t see the companies following through and really taking the lead.”

Oppenheim concluded his presentation with a note of caution. People at the conference were the converted, people already finding and looking at solutions to food and nutrition.

“What we need to do is to take this room and have thousands of rooms of like this … The real opportunity is to take this agenda to seize it with both hands to translate it into massive business opportunities.”

 

Right to Food Denied by Poor Policies and Inaction

Africa, Conferences, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Food Sustainability, Global, Headlines, Health, Multimedia, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Video

MILAN, Italy, Dec 3 2019 (IPS) – Global food systems are ripe for transformation if people are to be nourished and the planet sustainable, says Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur of the Right to Food of the United Nations Human Rights Council.


Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur of the Right to Food of the United Nations Human Rights Council speaking at the 10th International Forum on Food and Nutrition convened in Milan. Credit: Busani Bafana / IPS

Elver, told delegates at the 1oth International Forum on Food and Nutrition convened in Milan by the Barilla Centre, that the world needs food citizens who will act responsibly in promoting food equality and reducing food waste, which underlie global food and nutrition insecurity in the world today.

Food citizens are responsible for protecting the right to food through multi-actor actions including promoting a conducive environment that will secure food for all while promoting dialogue around food access, production and equitable distribution.

Citing the situation in Zimbabwe, Elver said the food crisis was a blot on the right to food that the world must respond to with urgency.

“The situation in Zimbabwe in mind boggling,” said Elver who has just returned from a mission to Zimbabwe to access the situation. “We need to know what is going as we talk about the need to diet, many in Zimbabwe eat once a day if they are lucky and food aid basically maize, just one meal a day. .. This is a very serious issue that we do not know it beyond the sustainable.”

Elver spoke with IPS on her mission to Zimbabwe. Excerpts of the interview:

IPS: You have just come back from Zimbabwe, what did you see?

Zimbabwe is an amazing country but if it facing a lot of challenges. It does not have basic public services and only four hours a day electricity and I understand that and government buildings, companies and some restaurants are using generators. But also you need fuel for the generators and for your car – if you have money to buy gas (fuel). The system is collapsing. People do not have time to work, because they either have to wait for gas for hours and hours and have to wait in front of the banks to get cash and 24 hours and transportation is very expensive. It is a vicious cycle and something should give in internally and externally because this has affected the food situation in the country too.

What has these challenges mean for the right to food?

That is a major problem. The root causes are a man-made journey to starvation. Every person in Zimbabwe has a responsibility to act. It did not come from drought. Yes drought is there. Other countries had a drought. Zambia had a drought, Mozambique had a drought and Cyclone Idai but Mozambique had huge aid from outside and Zimbabwe only got ten percent of it because of the sanctions.

What has been the impact of sanction on food security?

The intentional community should consider lifting the sanction because sanctions in the 20 years have had multiple impacts on the ordinary people’s lives. They talk about the targeted sanction but the sanctions are targeted by US, UK and EU, they are living perfectly fine and they do not travel a lot outside as they are high level government officials. It is okay for them but for the ordinary people it is not. They are suffering because all the international aid is blocked in one way or another. Investment is not coming. No one wants to invest in a country under sanctions.

Ask the IMF or World Bank why they cannot give the money to them. All the money they try to help Zimbabwe with goes to the NGOs and international organisations. If you are given $100 million, the people on the ground only get 20 percent of it. This is bad and this must change.

Is lifting sanctions everything to get Zimbabwe out of its challenges?

That is an important question. The government should make some democratic reforms, the freedom of speech, and freedom of association and give the opportunities to the people because the people are peaceful. The first thing is that the government should sit together with the opposition and all parties in a democratic manner and to think about how they can help their people together.

Land reform has been done in the last 20 years gradually here and there and there has been some kind of complaints as to why white farmers need compensation and black farmers are dysfunctional, these are myths going round. Black farmers are dysfunctional because they did not get any help from the government. You need first of all credit and you need technical help and you need seed and the government is in a terrible shape to give all these things. Of course there is disfunctionality but they cannot access resources there is land but they cannot do anything with it. If people find one square metres of land they just produce on it. The main problem is this corn based reliance. People are so obsessed with sadza, who brought maize to Zimbabwe? We should think about that.

Are you saying food diversification is a solution to the food problem?

Of course. The traditional food in Africa is very much good for the environmental conditions. Traditional small grains do to need too much water like maize and they should go back to this.

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