In 2006, in the wake of a farmer consultation process, an agricultural law was adopted by the National Assembly giving priority to food sovereignty and family farming. In what way is this a victory for Mali’s farmers?
It is a victory because for us, food sovereignty represents the right to decide our own agriculture and food policy without having to consult the United States or Europe. It is the right of the 70% of Mali’s population who are farmers to live off the fruits of their labour and be able to sell their products in the local marketplace.
What role should governments play in regard to food sovereignty?
The concept of food sovereignty needs to be thoroughly understood so that it can be included in agricultural policies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Our governments need to set up mechanisms to protect domestic production and ensure remunerative prices for farmers: every country needs to protect its farmers from the ups and downs of the world market. We need to develop local food markets rather than increase imports that will only make us more dependent vis-à-vis international market fluctuations. Government officials criticise family farming, but you can only criticise something that you’ve invested in. But we have no access to support, to improved seed, to credit, etc., even though agriculture remains the leading employment sector in Mali.
Is prioritising food sovereignty and family farming in agricultural policies an economically viable solution for African countries?
We should take advantage of this crisis to tell African consumers the truth, namely that they have chosen a path that will destroy the national economy. A country like ours that does not consume what it produces is not economically viable and is not giving itself the chance to experience a real economic boom. The production potential is huge, but it can never be developed if farmers cannot manage to live off their own work. Agriculture is a social safety net that keeps our countries from becoming destabilised.