Tackling the global food crisis through system change

Tackling the global food crisis through system change

We are in the midst of the third major food crisis in 15 years. This is no accident. It is the result of an  unjust global food system that prioritises profits over peoples’ rights, lives and the environment.  Worldwide hunger, malnutrition and rising food prices are a result of an unsustainable economic  system. The answer can only be system change, towards a food system based on agroecology and  food sovereignty.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia brought the food crisis to the headlines, with prices of wheat shooting up 70%. The FAO predicted a possible additional 13 million people pushed into hunger.  Yet, prices were rising even before any supply gaps, pushed up by food trader speculation and  profiteering in financial markets. The panic in global food markets, caused by the conflict between  the world’s largest producers of wheat and chemical fertiliser, has exposed the huge fragility of a  global food system. Today, at least 20 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for half of their  wheat imports. In Eastern Africa, wheat has become a staple food, despite not being grown in the  region. 84% is imported, mainly from Russia and Ukraine.

A fragile food system built on neoliberal doctrine

The current industrial food system is a driver of multiple crises: climate, food, environmental and  public health crises. Global production chains are also highly vulnerable to these shocks. Supplied  by an industrial model of food production, they rely heavily on fossil fuels and chemical inputs, and  are dominated by a handful of corporations. This means that food prices track rising energy prices,  while intensive food production contributes to carbon emissions and environmental destruction.

As the climate crisis intensifies, extreme weather events like the droughts, floods and heatwaves  experienced in the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and Europe this year become more frequent. This  pushes vulnerable people further in to poverty and hunger, whilst affecting small-scale producers’  ability to feed their communities in the future. Ongoing conflicts, wars and occupations are among  the main drivers of global hunger. Often these conflicts are over resource extraction or land, which  are made worse by climate change.

Moreover, years of neoliberal doctrine and policies (structural adjustment, conditional loans,  financial sector deregulation and free trade agreements) has pushed many previously food self sufficient countries into dependency on imports. Escalating conditional debt for countries in the  Global South, like Sri Lanka, has stripped them of the ability to provide public funding to cope with  rising food prices, health costs, energy poverty or climate impacts.

Hunger and food crisis are a structural shame

Hunger was widespread even before the Russia-Ukraine conflict began. According to the FAO,  between 702 and 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021. In 2020, over 2 billion did not  have adequate access to food. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed 150 million more into hunger.

These persistent and shocking levels of hunger expose structural problems in the industrial food  system. The issue is not inadequate food production, but a blind obsession with productivity, profits and global markets as the way to supply food, rather than a focus on realising the Right to Food,  and peoples’ rights more widely.

Agribusiness controls the market 

World over, we are seeing structural poverty, low wages and sharpening inequality. The  agribusiness industry is dominated by a handful of companies, with enormous influence over  markets, research and policy. The “big four” grain traders – Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill  and Louis Dreyfus – reported their highest ever profits in 2021. The overall wealth of food  corporations and billionaires grew by 45% in 2021/22, to $382 billion. Transnational corporations  have turned food into a financial commodity, with which they speculate and enrich themselves  without measure.

Meanwhile, small-scale producers face increasing repression and threats to their livelihoods.  Agribusinesses are using the food crisis to lobby for more subsidies and rip up existing regulations.  Under the cover of ‘crisis response’, they can grab land and resources from peasants, indigenous  peoples and family farmers, for monoculture tree plantations or intensive farms, for example.  Yet, this ‘Peasant Food Web’ provides the food for more than 70% of the world’s people. They  produce in a more sustainable manner, using less than 25% of the world’s resources (land, water,  fuels).

Our call for system change towards food sovereignty 

The answer to the global food crisis is not to deepen free markets, or to produce more intensively.  We need a shift in focus, away from profits and economic growth, towards the Right to Food.

People around the world are already working towards this transformation – from urban gardens in  Malaysia to native seed networks in Uruguay. In places like Togo, El Salvador, and the Philippines,  local agroecological food systems and short supply chains proved resilient and innovative during the  COVID 19 pandemic.  A radical transformation of our food system towards food sovereignty is possible. It requires  adequate public policies to reduce dependency on food imports and boost domestic food systems,  especially in the Global South. This means ensuring social and economic justice, via debt  cancellation, stopping free trade agreements and unfair investment deals. It means dismantling  corporate power.

It also requires investment in public institutions and policies to support the Right to Food and  agroecology, whilst guaranteeing peoples’ rights to control their territories – land, water and seeds.  This means valuing local knowledge and markets, and nurturing social relations founded on justice  and solidarity. It involves tackling the overlapping oppressions that operate in the food system –  patriarchy, racism, colonialism and class – and recognising the fundamental role of women in food  production. Ultimately, it means supporting those who feed the world in a way that protects  biodiversity, lowers emissions and counters destructive industrial agriculture.

The answer to the global food crisis is system change.

“This article appeared on Friends of the Earth International’s website and has been published here with permission.” Photo: “A farmer in Mozambique. Photo by Amelia Collins, Friends of the Earth International”.
Say No to Gas ! Website is Live

Say No to Gas ! Website is Live

The campaign, co-ordinated by JA! aims to bring an end to the gas industry in Mozambique and all over the world. We are focusing on the regions of Cabo Delgado, Inhambane and Nampula provinces in Mozambique, fighting an industry whose tentacles are spreading out around country, the African continent and the world.

We are working on the ground in Mozambique, and supported by an international coalition that challenges the impunity of the gas industry, exposing its violations and threats to human rights, environmental destruction and climate impact everywhere in the world, fighting the culprits in their own countries.

The website is a rich depository for anyone who wants to learn about the gas struggle, the devastating impacts, the facts about gas, companies, financiers and governments fuelling the industry, reports and regular updates.


Aluta Continua!

For more information visit the website  contact

Anabela Lemos

JA!FOE Moçambique


Strengthening the African Region to End Corporate Impunity

Strengthening the African Region to End Corporate Impunity

As part of the project to strengthen the African region to end impunity of transnational corporations (TNCs), Friends of the Earth Togo organized on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 at the Entente room of the Administrative Center and Economic and Financial Services (CASEF), a capacity building workshop for 28 people from human rights and environmental organizations.

The overall objectives of the project are: to document cases of corporate impunity around the world, particularly in Africa, in order to demand policy changes to dismantle corporate power and challenge the current model of development driven by multinational corporations; to denounce harmful trade agreements; and to promote binding rules for TNCs and other businesses.

 Specifically, these are:

  1. Document and present concrete examples of human rights impacts of TNC activities
  2. Train 25 human rights structures (NGOs/associations and public administration) on the UN binding treaty and its negotiation process
  3. Establish a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) in favor of the fight against TNC violations and for human dignity, with a roadmap.

Two presentations were made during the workshop by two experts from Friends of the Earth-Togo:

Presentation 1: Documented concrete examples of human rights impacts of TNC activities, by KPONDZO Kwami, Campaign officer

Presentation 2: The United Nations binding treaty and its negotiation process, AMEGADZE Kokou, Deputy Executive Director

These presentations generated a lot of interest and questions that were answered by the presenters.

When interviewed about the need to train CSOs to document cases of human rights violations by TNCs, Mr. AMEGADZE Kokou Elorm, said that : TNCs are companies with offices in several countries, under different jurisdictions, with a single decision-making center. The activities of these companies are associated with many injustices, he noted. It is a question of human rights violations, land grabbing and ecological damage. It is therefore a question of seeing how this can be reversed so that the affected populations no longer suffer from the perverse effects linked to the activities of TNCs. Since the CSO movement supports communities affected by human rights abuses, it is important to educate and train them on the ins and outs of TNC activities. That is why we want these CSOs to understand the issues related to TNC operations so that the abuses we see can be stopped.

The workshop ended on a high note by establishing a coalition for the fight against TNC violations and for human dignity, bringing together the participating organizations, with a roadmap for its activities.

For more information

Friends of the Earth-Togo

 +228 97 12 44 96


MPHANDA NKUWA DAM: A Climate Change Millstone Around Mozambique’s Neck

MPHANDA NKUWA DAM: A Climate Change Millstone Around Mozambique’s Neck

The Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower dam project, mooted more than two decades ago, has re-emerged as a solution for increasing power exports to South Africa to enable Mozambique to increase its capacity for earning foreign currency. The project is now being promoted at a cost of USD 4.5 billion comprising USD 2.4 billion for the dam and power plant, plus USD 2.1 billion for transmission lines. This essay discusses the merits of the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project and its socio-economic and development benefits in the face of climate change impacts, at a time when the world is facing energy challenges that require rethinking the most sustainable types and sources of energy for the future.

The Mphanda Nkuwa Dam would be the third largest dam to be constructed on the main stem of the Zambezi River and one of many other dams in the basin when the Zambezi tributaries are considered. Its location in the lower Zambezi River basin, in Mozambique, gives it unique features and makes it vulnerable and also crucial in determining the health of the downstream ecosystems. As currently designed, the hydropower plant has a 1500 MW generation capacity, with 60% (900 MW) of this capacity committed for export to South Africa and the balance of 600 MW (40%) reserved for domestic consumption in Mozambique. Currently, over 60% of Mozambicans, most of whom live in widely dispersed settlements in remote rural areas, do not have access to modern electricity and are out of reach of the existing national electricity grid. Far much more than 600MW would be required to enable Mozambique to reach 50% access to electricity by 2030.

The project is planned for commissioning in 2030, with about 2 years of this needed for planning and design, while construction is expected to take 6 years. The touted benefits of Mphanda Nkuwa are doubtful in the face of climate change and the fact that the dam will be detrimental to downstream ecosystems, as well as human health and safety while leading to the loss of livelihoods for downstream communities. As is the case in most similar large infrastructure projects, the Mphanda Nkuwa dam and hydropower project is drawing favor from international financial institutions such as the Africa Development Bank which view it purely from a macro-economic viewpoint as an avenue for spurring economic growth in the country through increased foreign currency earnings. The proponents of the project, however, overlook the several risks that are associated with the project and, thus, do not discuss how these risks will be addressed.

Of major concern among the risks is the issue of climate change. Following some detailed analysis, the IPCC found that, out of the 11 main river basins in Africa, the Zambezi Basin is the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The Zambezi basin is predicted to experience severe extreme weather events in the form of prolonged drought periods, and extreme flooding events in the future, the worst of all other basins on the continent. Furthermore, the Lower Zambezi is directly affected by developments upstream, with the negative impacts of upstream developments being compounded at Mphanda Nkuwa and downstream. In the past decade, Mozambique has been the worst climate change-affected country among all the SADC countries with numerous extreme weather events of cyclones and flooding being experienced. The operations of the upstream dams at Kariba, Kafue, and Cahora Bassa, with their large combined storage capacity, will be key to the performance of Mphanda Nkuwa.

Being located downstream of the large dams, the major risk for Mphanda Nkuwa will be during drought periods when the upstream dams may not release water as the upstream countries may prioritize their own needs. The high risk of droughts in the Zambezi basin, wrought by climate change, will have a direct negative impact on the financial and economic viability of the project, as the projected revenue generation and foreign currency earnings will be severely curtailed by prolonged droughts. The withholding of water in upstream dams during droughts will also endanger the ecological flows of the river below Mphanda Nkuwa, with further detrimental effects to prawn fishing in the delta region.

Similarly, in the event of large floods, upstream dams will release water downstream, thereby creating risks of dam failure at Mphanda Nkuwa as well as worsening human safety downstream in the Zambezi valley. The risks to dam safety as a result of flooding may necessitate more expensive design features and higher construction costs. The high risk of loss of human lives and threat to human livelihoods in Mozambique due to floods has been fully demonstrated by numerous catastrophic flood events in the lower Zambezi valley in the past two decades. It, therefore, follows that Mphanda Nkuwa is highly susceptible to climate change impacts with respect to both droughts and floods.

Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower is touted as clean energy. However, emerging studies worldwide are indicating that dams emit considerable amounts of methane, with methane as a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. At a time when the world is facing huge global warming and climate change risks, the decision to proceed with Mphanda Nkuwa is unfortunate and flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

Mphanda Nkuwa is premised on power being sold to the Southern African countries, with South Africa’s power utility company Eskom being the principal customer for the electricity. It is important to note that over the past 15 years Eskom has been experiencing serious long-standing governance and structural challenges resulting in a chronic debt problem amounting to over ZAR 500 billion, which is equivalent to USD30 billion at the time of writing. Thus, the South African power utility is facing serious financial viability challenges which render it a risky customer on which to base a huge investment of USD 4.5 billion. As a result of its worsening financial position, Eskom has been progressively increasing domestic electricity tariffs in the past decade, with the result that some of its major customers, especially the wealthy ones, have been moving off the grid, thereby creating risks to its revenue collection and also worsening the power utility’s financial viability. Clearly, this issue is a red flag that the proponents of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam project need to seriously interrogate in their market analyses. The delicacy of the viability of Mphanda Nkuwa becomes even starker when viewed against the background of the current power purchase agreement of Cahora Bassa power to South Africa, whose electricity pricing is highly unfavourable for Mozambique.

Other concerns regarding Mphanda Nkuwa include the claimed increase in energy access for Mozambicans. While on paper the claim is made that 40% of the Mphanda Nkuwa power will be availed to Mozambicans, in reality, the impact on access to power for Mozambicans will be insignificant. The dispersed, extensive rural settlement pattern of most of the Mozambicans who currently do not enjoy access to clean energy, and the absence of an extensive grid network renders the claim that Mphanda Nkuwa will increase access to electricity a fallacy. Mozambique lacks an extensive transmission and distribution network and, even with the proposed transmission line, the majority in the rural areas will still remain unconnected to modern electricity. Grid electricity will not be enough to increase access and spur development in the country. At any rate, the cost of electricity, without subsidy, is unlikely to be affordable for the majority of the citizens.

The Mphanda Nkuwa dam development pays very little attention to the basin ecosystem health and social wellbeing of downstream communities. The operations of the Mphanda Nkuwa dam will significantly alter the flow regime of the downstream area, creating daily fluctuations that will affect aquatic biota as well as the livelihoods of over 200.000 inhabitants who live in the delta and who, to a large extent, rely on the natural resources of the basin. The livelihoods of the communities that reside in the area that will be inundated should not be discounted. Based on what has already transpired and been experienced in other mega infrastructure projects in Tete province and across the country, these people will likely be subjected to forced displacement, curtailed livelihoods, inadequate compensation, State violence, and repression, and other human rights violations. The people in the basin will be the main losers from this development.

In conclusion, the investment is unlikely to significantly increase industrialization and spur economic growth in Mozambique. Very limited direct permanent employment can be expected to emanate from this hydropower development. No gains will be made in terms of climate change GHG emissions, and sadly more emissions will result from the hydropower dam. The revenue from the electricity sales may not cover the costs of production with a potential of failure to service the debt for the dam. Several studies have been done for South Africa and Mozambique that demonstrate that clean energy can be harnessed through wind and solar to reach the widely dispersed rural population at a much faster pace, creating jobs and comparatively having fewer negative social and environmental impacts. Against this backdrop, Mozambique has a huge potential to turn to renewable energies, and change its energy trajectory for energy development, distribution and generation. If implemented, the Mphanda Nkuwa will be a millstone around the neck of Mozambique for many generations to come.

*This study was launched in Maputo on July 21st, 2022. To get a copy of the study please go to Justiça Ambiental’s office on Rua Willy Waddington, 102, Bairro da Coop, Maputo, or download it from this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FXkv0z4PzdOT6yhueYhPqXVCo_9di4Qz

For more information:

Justicia Ambiental / Friends of the Earth Mozambique

+258 84 3106010 / jamoz2010@gmail.com


FoEA seeks ECOWAS intervention to end all forms of exploitation and violations against communities by industrial plantations corporations

FoEA seeks ECOWAS intervention to end all forms of exploitation and violations against communities by industrial plantations corporations

 Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEAfrica) on Saturday 18th June 2022 called on the ECOWAS Parliament to intervene in the exploitative activities and human rights violations by industrial plantation companies whose operations in the region is causing untold impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities with increased climate and biodiversity crisis.

In a presentation made before the ECOWAS Parliament at the 1st Ordinary ECOWAS Parliamentary Session held in Abuja Nigeria, Rita Uwaka FoE Africa/ERA FoE Nigeria Forest & Biodiversity Programme Coordinator who spoke on behalf of the organization said:

Our struggle against the corporate takeover of our forest and land for industrial plantation expansion by corporations is not a fight against development but a struggle to prevent further human rights violations, environmental damage, biodiversity and livelihoods loss; as well as promote the development of millions of indigenous peoples and local communities, with a focus on women and youths, who depend on forests and farmlands for their day-to-day well-being’’

Apart from exposing the adverse social, environmental, and gender impacts of agribusinesses on African communities. It also highlighted the role of some Governments in promoting the private interests of corporations over the public interest in Africa.

In 2020 Lagos Nigeria, Friends of the Earth Africa organized the First African Peoples Tribunal on Industrial Plantations on Industrial Plantations. The Tribunal recognized how deforestation and the rush for African land for large-scale agro-commodities expansion is causing systemic oppression, human rights violations with devastating impacts on indigenous peoples and local communities, including women who depend on forest and land for wellness, food, income and spiritual connection.

There were ten cases of industrial plantation company’s human rights abuses across Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, and West Africa. The ten countries were Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Almost two years after the first African Peoples Tribunal, we still witness land grabbing and violations associated with the activities of industrial plantation companies in West Africa and community territories across the continent. Breaches like the militarization of communities that play host to these companies, the use of slap suits to silence the voices of environmental human rights defenders, intimidation violence and harassment of community rights activists, pollution of surface and underground water bodies as a result of the over-reliance of these companies on agro-toxins, more cases of labour exploitation and workers’ rights violations, accident and death of workers including pregnant women that were transported in open trucks to their workplaces in these plantations.

 As part of policy recommendations to the ECOWAS Parliament during the face to face session with the parliamentarians in June, 2022, FoE Africa requests the parliament to:

1.       Support Economic Partnership Agreements that respect the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples in Africa and protect and restore the environment.

2.       Build policies and finance that promote people-powered solutions like Community Forest Management & Agroecology, which are built on peoples sovereignty and participation in decision making.

3.       Reject false solutions such as voluntary certification schemes and nature-based solutions for the climate crisis, that commodity nature greenwashes bad practices, license forest destruction, and violate human rights.

4.       Halt the criminalization and harassment of environmental human rights defenders and provide access to justice for defenders and affected local communities.

5.       Support policies that install a moratorium on expanding monoculture industrial plantations.

6.       Redirect investments from large-scale agro-commodities expansion in Africa by shifting government and private finance, research, and technical support towards community-based forest management and agroecology.

7.       Stop trade deals that empower companies to influence legislation through special rights and provisions at the detriment of the public interest.

8.       Work with foreign governments and institutions to halt the international trade and finance of forest and ecosystem risk commodities, including the recent European Commission anti-deforestation proposal.

9.       Promote access to justice with a strong UN Binding Treaty for business and human rights.

10.   Protect women’s rights and access to land.

11.   Ensure to have a periodic forest dialogue with forested countries on policy intervention they can take to halt deforestation and land grabbing for large-scale plantation expansion in Africa, especially within the ECOWAS member states.

 In 2021 FoE Africa had organized a pre-lobby visit to the ECOWAS Parliament and was received by the Secretary General of the ECOWAS Parliament Mr. John Azumah as well as the Director of Parliamentary affairs Mr. Betim Some.

The aim of the first visit was to help the regional body understand FoE Africa thematic work areas, its campaigns against land grabbing, deforestation for agrocommodities business in West Africa as reflected in the outcomes of the African Peoples Tribunal on industrial plantations in 2020 held in Lagos Nigeria. It also highlighted the role of international financiers, investment and pension funds in controlling and financing controversial oil palm, rubber, eucalyptus and timber plantation companies.


These policy engagements including the presentation before the ECOWAS Parliament have strengthened FoE Africa’s relationship with the ECOWAS institution for future lobby, advocacy and collaborative work as well as in upcoming parliamentary sessions. The ECOWAS parliamentary session was facilitated by A Speaker of the parliament Hon. Adja Satu Camara Pinto (Mrs).

FoE Africa advocacy materials including the APT publications were handed to the ECOWAS Parliamentarians, officials and journalists during the session.

Meanwhile, FoE Africa delegation to both engagements included Sustainable Development Institute SDI/FoE Liberia, Environmental Rights Action/FoE Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Togo. Others include allies and community representatives from: JVE Ghana, MALOA (SOCFIN impacted communities) Sierra Leone,  SIAT impacted communities in Ghana and Nigeria,  Wilmar impacted communities in Nigeria, plus a representative of Association of Women Farmers of Nigeria.

The delegation had a press conference with media professionals across the region.

At a Press conference with community representatives from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.