Food sovereignty in the making

How should agricultural experts and urban planners respond to farmer-led irrigation development in Africa?

Food sovereignty in the making - Bucket irrigation Mozambique

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces some of the most urgent global challenges, not least in terms of food - and nutrition security in the background of rapid population growth, water scarcity and climate change. Recent research shows that African households in rural and peri-urban areas are driving the improvement and expansion of irrigated agriculture in an unprecedented manner, a process referred to as African farmer-led irrigation development.

Responding to this bottom-up development process in Africa offers a potential pathway to deal with the global challenges. Farmer-led irrigation development has many characteristics of what is today discussed as food sovereignty; the control of food production by citizens and farmers, and the revitalization of interdependencies between urban consumers and producers. In this sense, it embodies a move towards local and national solutions rather than globally promoted models of corporate trade and food regimes. 

Research will focus on two lines of inquiry: 1. studying the scale of farmer-led irrigation development in Africa;  and 2. exploring food communication in the media, and among farmers and professionals, to identify ways how farmer-led development can be presented as a viable alternative.

Working on measures to improve professional responses of agricultural experts and urban planners in local development contexts across Africa, several activities are planned, starting with a selection of relevant research sites in Tanzania, Mozambique and South-Africa and the formation of a consortium. A new network has been launched on 15-16 March 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania. SAFI (Supporting African Farmer-led Irrigation development) is an international research network on farmer-led irrigation development. The network is hosted by the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, WISE Futures, and has more than 50 professionals, from across Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Sudan and Algeria.

This project aims to build bridges across research, education and societal impact with an interfaculty collaboration and connections to different partner universities and organizations, building on earlier research projects. The project also aims to set up an exchange programme for student, internship, and thesis research. Possibilities and demand of training and executive courses will be explored. Educational material, a short-film and a proposal for further funding will be developed.

Farmer-led irrigation development in Africa