How about using trade expos to promote indigenous food systems?
Beyond talking about investment opportunities such as abundant land and water, African countries should use global events such as the Dubai Expo as a platform for promoting indigenous commodities. Each African country has unique indigenous food and other commodities which the people from other parts of the world wish test and appreciate. It does not help African countries to compete in promoting the same exotic food systems.
Using global expos as platforms for promoting indigenous food systems can only happen if African countries demonstrate political will to invest in indigenous knowledge systems for sustainable production of indigenous food for both local consumptions and export. When African countries take the lead in promoting indigenous food systems, development agencies will be persuaded to build warehouses for indigenous food and promote technology for preserving and adding value to indigenous commodities.
Indigenous food systems continue to be under-researched
Unless expos are used to transform food systems, African countries will continue spending foreign currency to import inputs which destroy natural food systems while farmers are reduced to labourers for western markets. The fact that during some droughts, communities survive on wild indigenous fruits and tubers is an indication that those fruits and tubers are important resources that should be developed. Ultimately, policy makers and development agencies should invest in assessing nutrition within indigenous fruits.
Those promoting imported food systems are obviously against the revival and proliferation of indigenous food because they know once many consumers embrace indigenous food they will shun imported food such as hybrids. The same technologies used to process imported fruits and other commodities should be used to process indigenous fruits like Masawu, Gangácha and others. The onus is on African countries to either continue riding on imported knowledge through academic routes or invest in indigenous knowledge systems.
Reversing stigma associated with indigenous food
Indigenous foods like small grains are stigmatized through being associated with dry regions as if all food should be produced in high rainfall regions. When there is a level playing field, government extension services will promote indigenous food systems the same way they are promoting exotic food systems. Most seed companies do not want to promote indigenous seed, their excuse being that farmers use retained seed so there is no market. Conversely the main reason is that they do not want to see indigenous seed out-competing hybrids. With enough support, communities can build their own strong local seed houses so that they do not depend on expensive imported food systems.
Policy makers should safe-guard indigenous gains the same way they protect maize which they are giving much priority at the expense of small grains and indigenous crops that are often left to the mess of poor markets. Given the contribution of wetlands to indigenous food systems, policy makers should be protecting wetlands unlike leaving such an important resource to urbanization-driven housing expansion.
Why not create ranches for indigenous livestock and green belts for indigenous food like small grains which do not require much water compared to imported crops? Why not identify appropriate indigenous grasses and produce livestock feed rather than wait private companies to make livestock feed for selling to farmers?
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