The coronavirus was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, and it has since spread to over 50 African nations where the confirmed cases have increased exponentially from the few imported to many local infections, which resulted into devastating effects on the health and social-economic welfare. As Africa continues to register more cases daily, many governments using their experience in managing highly infectious disease on the continent opted for the early enforcement of strict guidelines of social distancing, while others quickly declared total lockdowns allowing only essential activities related to food, health, banking, and security to keep running.
The Looming Food Crisis
In many communities across the continent where the lockdown has been implemented, the focus and worry is shifting from the COVID-19 health implications to the looming food crisis that is slowly, but steadily, starting to manifest in many urban areas, mainly attributed to the reduced mobility of food from producing areas to major markets as well as the effects coronavirus outbreak has imposed on the general agricultural practices in many parts of the continent. While food prices in many countries like Tanzania and Malawi remain stable, in some countries like Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria, to mention but a few, the prices of basic foodstuffs, like rice and cornmeal flour, have escalated to a record high, as a result of more speculative preprocessed-food traders taking advantage of the situation as consumers try to stock food in preparation to the tough times ahead. This has left majority urban residents who do not have stable bank accounts, and many of the daily casual workers who earn from the hand to mouth, miss out on the little available food in many major cities around the continent.
Some governments, to counteract this food crisis perpetuated by the coronavirus situation, have opted for emergency food aid after a strong lobby voice from the citizens and the civil society organizations, like Slow Food Network in some African countries, that have raised a strong need to bring food security into COVID-19 response discussions.
Slow Food Africa Voice Amid the COVID-19 Crisis
As Slow Food Africa Network, we understand that the coronavirus pandemic on the African continent has grave impacts on the food security of many already vulnerable communities, that is why we have not stopped talking to the local authorities about the looming food crisis, as well as using the available means of communication to keep talking to the growing Slow Food Network in different parts about the value of maintaining the Slow Food Gardens in different communities, schools, and homes in this trying moments.
In Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and DR. Congo, even if the physical learning sessions of Slow Food Academy on agroecology were temporarily suspended, as we adhere to the governments’ directives and guidelines, the discussions on how the Slow Food philosophy and agroecology can improve the food system in Africa are ongoing. Materials, discussion topics, and experiences continue to be shared among the participants using the virtual social media platforms created by the coordinators.
Slow Food Youth Network Africa conducts regular video conference calls to keep planning online events, share ideas and encouraging stories across the continent, thanks to the hard-working and highly innovative young leaders from different countries who have kept the work of our local communities visible. The youth have a big role to play at this challenging moment when the continent, and the entire planet, needs more earth-friendly social entrepreneurs and innovators to overcome a string of crises, many of them resulting from human errors and greed.
The Role of Slow Food Gardens
The Slow Food Gardens continue to be of great value to many communities by providing a diverse fresh foodstuff. We keep motivating ourselves as Slow Food Network leaders to continue encouraging our communities, where the members still have access to home gardens, to keep planting seeds of hope and good health in the garden to feed the communities and our families through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond, because no one has the assurance to when this whole coronavirus confusion will come to an end. We continue to encourage our communities to generously share seeds, food and knowledge with other members through the different platforms, while adhering to the health and safety guidelines issued by the relevant authorities.
It is important that the access to farmland, seeds and water resources would be included in the response measure by the African authorities, as basic steps to fight the COVID-19 resultant food crisis on the African continent.
As we stay at home, we should not forget the therapeutic power of an ecologically managed home food garden and its ability to provide the much-needed healthy foodstuffs through this trying moment. This should not be a time to despair, but a moment to reflect on our human impact on the planet, and how we can virtually support each other to recover from the current string of crises that Slow Food has always tried to address. Let us stay physically apart but continue to be socially connected by the struggle that unites us and by the one global Slow Food Movement that brings our efforts together for a good, clean and fair food system.