Image: Courtesy of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
"I know that there is a certain fatigue. I have read comments in blogs and elsewhere that 'here we go again; once more a famine; once more African children are dying; once more there is an appeal for help.'" This comment was made by Anthony Lake, Executive Director of Unicef, in relation to the current food crisis in the Sahel region. Less than a year after the food crisis and famine in the Horn of Africa about 15 million people in the Sahel region are at risk.
In Africa the so-called 'lean season' or 'hunger season' is a well-known phenomenon. It are the months before the new harvest, when the food stocks of the last harvest dwindle and people struggle to have enough to eat. When the hunger season arrives earlier or lasts longer, this causes immediate problems. When this occurs several years in a row, the resilience of poor people to deal with the shortages is weakened: they have no options to recover.
This conference is held to facilitate a platform for policymakers, innovators, researchers, and civil society to discuss the dilemmas and solutions. In the words of Lake: "By acting vigorously and properly now, we can head off future crises ... by building now in this crisis, health systems, community nutrition centres, more water bore holes ... we can build capacity for the future."
Welcome by Frans van den Boom (Executive Director / CEO NCDO)
Food is important for NCDO: everybody needs food, it is an issue that is simple to explain; our current eating habits are not sustainable; The Netherlands have a lot of experience and knowledge on food. The irony now is that we do produce enough that 9 billion people can be fed, but still 1 billion people suffer from hunger!
Keynote speech: Professor David Millar (Pro-Vice Chancellor University for Development Studies Ghana)
Africa’s land is being used for global targets and markets. All policies now being implemented marginalize the small farmers. Supermarkets are for the working and urban classes; Africa at large needs a different way.
We want to preserve our local food because that food is also healthy for us. Food has a social dimension; what one calls ‘food’ is what one has learned over the years to call ‘food’. Challenge: pay attention to the farmer’s driven food system, the traditional system. The urban people and the rural people rely on different food systems, both should be supported. Feeding Africa starts with letting Africa itself define what is food.
Co-referent: Madeleen Helmer (Director Policies and Communication Concerns Red Cross Climate Centre)
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Link between climate change and food security. Most important asset of rural people is their knowledge of the local climate – when to plant, when to get more cattle, etc – which knowledge is becoming obsolete due to climate change (it does not apply anymore). Added problem for Africa is that there is not sufficient collected data to discover the trends in climate change taking place.
Column Joris Lohman (Chairman Youth Food Movement)
Increase the value of food, pay more and appreciate it more.
Let us export knowledge and management, and not food. Regional food security is the key for the coming decennia.
Innovative approach 1: Janneke Hadders (Director Dacom, winner MKB Innovation Top 100 with an irrigation system for crops)
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“Agri Yield Management Systems” -- paving to road to sustainable agriculture.
Irrigation management has been a price winning innovation. It measures on several levels the moisture in the soil and then will advice when and how much water is needed, preventing using too much, or at the wrong time.
Innovative approach 2: Hans Eenhoorn (Worldconnector, Former Senior Vice President of Unilever, Initiator 1-2-1 Food Losses Initiative)
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Reduce post harvest loss! 1/3 of harvests is lost, amounting in Holland to 200kg p.p.p.y. with a total value of €4.4bilion (the amount the Dutch government gives in development aid!). Sub Sahara loss is 150kg p.p.p.y., but not at the consumers level, but in transport. To fight losses, look at the whole value chain from seed to mouth.
Summary, Jos van Gennip