An expert and environmental activist, Nnommo Bassey, has called on African governments to decolonize agriculture as the way towards the preservation of crop and animal varieties, rebuilding food systems, thereby, recovering the African culture.
Bassey in a statement weekend in Abuja, said a decolonized agriculture invests on support systems for farmers, including by providing extension services and providing/upgrading rural infrastructure.
“It also means preserving local varieties, ensuring that farmers have access to land and, funding research institutions to build a knowledge base on healthy soils and resilient indigenous crops. It would also mean putting farmers on the driving seat of agricultural policy, elevating the precautionary principle in biosafety issues, and outlawing harmful pesticides. It would again mean placing a moratorium on all types of agricultural modern biotechnology as this is a key means of eroding species varieties besides threatening outright extinctions.
“Decolonizing our food system will liberate our tongues and bring back forgotten tastes. It is the way to revive our cultures and bring back vibrancy into the lives of our rural communities. Species harmed by chemical inputs in industrial agriculture would recover and play their roles in pollination, assuring farmers of bumper harvests and breaking the chains of import dependence.
“A decolonized food system uncovers the falsehood of genetically engineered crops presented as climate smart agriculture whereas, if anything, they are truly climate stupid.
“Food and culture are inseparable. Food is at the centre of our festivals and ceremonies. Food sovereignty is achievable only in a decolonized food system. In such system, we know where and how our foods are produced and our farmers are true knowledge holders and cannot be deceived to plant varieties they don’t know or want. A colonized food and agriculture system enslaves farmers, disconnects people from the soil and exposes citizens to great harm,” he said.
He called on Africans to demand safe food, reject monoculture and decolonize food and mindsets.
He affirmed that the subversion of African food systems was intentionally constructed through the colonisation of thought, a phenomenon that persists as coloniality.
“The colonizers needed to displace labour invested for local needs while expanding and consolidating labour to meet the needs of the colonizers. By emphasizing a cash economy, farmers were forced to neglect their own needs, derided as subsistence farming, and to offer their labour in exchange for wages. The colonial powers scored double on this count by introducing plantation agriculture and bringing in the locals as farmhands.
“Colonial agriculture thrived not only by producing crops for export, but it also benefited from altering the appetites of the colonized. These changes did not happen only through advertisements, the indigenous foods were denigrated as uncivilised and sometimes simply forgotten due to a chronic absence of the crops or ingredients for preparing the foods.
“Today, the erosion of varieties is exacerbated by many related factors including the prevalence of junk foods, hybridization of crop varieties, genetic manipulations, and hostile seed laws.
“Farming for cash relegated diverse crop varieties needed to maintain nutritious food systems. The centrality of agriculture and food in our cultures got dramatically eroded through colonial plantation agriculture and the fixation on cash rather than seeing agriculture as a pattern of living.
“Industrial agriculture has led to the capture of the sector by corporations who care for profit more than the planet. They don’t only muddy the waters in our countries but also do much harm in multilateral spaces where they lobby to erode regulations and safety measures,” he said,