The 16 Days of Global Action on agroecology is an annual event initiated by Pesticide Action Network (PANAP) with the aim of creating awareness on the importance of a given element of food production. The theme for the 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology for 2019 was “Youth March on for Agroecology and Food Sovereignty”. The objectives of the 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology was to raise public awareness on benefits of agroecology on food security, health , environment , on land and resources including on the economy of food producers and rural communities ; to gather broad support and promote youth’s leadership and initiatives to call for agroecology as an alternative to corporate agriculture and to generate solidarity among the youth across the globe to push for policy changes in the local, national and international level for agroecology .The campaign took place in October 2019.
Food sovereignty is key to millions of smallholder farmers and food producers more so for poor nations. For sub –Saharan Africa, contradictions arise that it is the continent with the largest amount of natural resources but also the continent with the highest population of suffering humanity. Industrial agriculture model adopted under the guise of tackling hunger is pushing more Africans out of their land, monoculture with the inherent production of what we do not consume, is making many African nations shift from producing food to producing cash crops thus putting household food security and overall family nutrition at risk. With land grabbing comes forceful evictions and forced relocations and at the same time loss of biodiversity as land meant for food is either replaced by monoculture or buildings. The question being can we eat concrete?
Agroecology as a practice, a science and a movement has time and again shown that it can withstand the extreme weather condition, respects diversity, works with both with culture and nature. Many constitutions across the world speak have chapters on Bill of Rights which communicate about right to health, culturally appropriate food but still at the same time the very governments open their countries to become sites of dumping agro-chemicals which have long been outlawed in Europe and other parts of the world. For an African smallholder farmer, agroecology is affordable, has not risks of disease infestation, utilises biological pest control and is healthy.
The world today boasts 1.2 billion youth aged 15- 24 translating into 16 percent of global population. This population also faces huge challenges which include lack of financial support and resources. Many young people are forced to migrate into cities in search of employment, leaving behind rural land unattended. In some communities due to the allure of quick money young people are selling off land and buying motorcycles, locally known as boda bodas. It is against this backdrop that the 16 Days of Global Action campaign in the second year in a row , wished to bring forth the power of young people in changing the current situation. Additionally it was to focus on the rule of youth in agroecology including contribution to the struggle for food sovereignty, agroecology and resistant against corporate agriculture. Sadly, despite food being an international connector and a basic need, people only eat healthy food when either they have being told that their weight is getting into a danger zone , majority of people especially the young eat food as is influenced by fashion fad and peers. The ever present phenomenon of young people going to fast food restaurants and taking selfies while savouring oily chicken which may look attractive to the eyes but is full of injected hormones to make the chicken mature faster. This is a misleading trend in that these hormones get directly to the body and in the long run cause many diseases putting already poor families to pay more for healthcare. Young people also view indigenous food such as millet, sorghum arrow roots and cassava as less fashionable , to them eating pizza is a sign of “modernity “ and international fast food restaurants are really cashing in on this “ food fad” in the capital cities of Nairobi, Kampala , Dar es Salaam and Addis Ababa among others. Additionally, is extremely rare to see a selfie of a young person in the village taking tea and sweet potatoes for breakfast then sharing this on either WhatsApp or Facebook ,reason being this is not deemed as fashionable and may largely be seen as an embarrassment .
Asked what comes to mind when they hear about agriculture, many young people confess that the mental image they have is an elderly man sweating in the sun, a man in tatters clothes, a poor family. Additionally, education system of many countries has painted agriculture to be difficult with some teachers using elements of agriculture as forms of punishment for example uprooting tree stumps and cutting grass. Parents and guardians have also not been left behind. In many instances many parents tell their children to become doctors, engineers and lawyers, many do not look at farming as both a profession and something profitable. Multinational corporations have also cashed on this ignorance through their push for agro loans and agro chemicals through promoting agribusiness which is chemical intensive and contributes to toxic materials being released in the environment including rivers and lakes. As part of 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology , Fahamu Africa under the Your Voice Matters (http://www.fahamu.org/your-voice-matters/)and Food Justice project (http://www.fahamu.org/food-justice-project/ )organised activities in two universities in Kenya namely Catholic University of Eastern Africa and University of Nairobi and in a rural community in Muvuti , Machakos county to reflect on agroecology , share the principles of agroecology and discuss with young people what factors determine their food consumption. The forums also provided young people with a reflection platform on what comes to their minds when they hear the world agriculture. The 16 Days of Global Action on agroecology enabled young people understand the struggles of rural communities , the danger of quick fix solutions to the food crisis and the false allure of industrial agricultural model which damages soil fertility and disrupts biodiversity .The students got to interact with farmers and learn basic principles of agroecology .
The 16 Days of Global Action on Agroecology was in essence an important event to make both young people and smallholder farmers realise that there is need to work together and the connecting point is food without which we cannot survive and that these food must be healthy, nutritious, available , affordable and culturally appropriate.