Just when Africa needs it most, the vast wealth of farmers’ knowledge that sustains the diversity of the continent’s crops, wild foods, nutrition and resilience to climate change is on the verge of being lost forever.
In their pursuit of profit, big agribusiness and governments are aggressively expanding fossil fuel-intensive monocultures and introducing laws which criminalise saving and exchanging seed – riding rough-shod over those who are most knowledgeable about and able to safeguard agro-biodiversity.
Small farmers – most of whom are women – produce 80% of the food in Africa on 14.7% of the agricultural land. As custodians of encyclopaedic agricultural knowledge, women are both disproportionately affected by the expansion of the industrial model of agriculture and leading the counter movement to ensure that Africa’s food future is diverse and helps cool the planet.
On November 25 a new report, Celebrating African Rural Women: Custodians of Seed, Food and Traditional Knowledge for Climate Change Resilience, will be launched in London by the African Biodiversity Network, The Gaia foundation and the African Women’s Development Fund. The report highlights the vital role that African rural women play in selecting, breeding and enhancing the diversity of their seeds. It offers a window into the complexity of women’s agricultural knowledge, evolved through their intimate relationship with land and seed, and their understanding of the nutritional and cultural needs of the family and the community – all of which lie at the heart of food sovereignty.
Panellists Theo Sowa, Liz Hosken, and Professor Patricia Howard will share examples of African women’s wealth of seed and plant related knowledge. They will discuss how women have been systematically undermined through colonial and post-colonial processes and how, despite these aggressions, women are building momentum for change through the African movement for food sovereignty, climate justice and initiatives to restore and scale-up agro-ecological practices.