The Jesuits Justice and Ecology Network of Africa (JENA) in conjunction with Caritas Africa held an international blended conference on the 22nd – 24th June 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was themed “Food Sovereignty in times of recovery: Building back better through mainstreaming social justice and leveraging on ecological agriculture”.

Caritas Africa and the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network-Africa (JENA) have resolved to respond to and support Pope Francis’ call to prepare the future.  JENA and Caritas aim at seizing the current COVID-19 health crisis as an opportunity to respond to the food security needs affecting mostly the poor and vulnerable.  The two faith based pan-African Catholic organisations are also keen to raise awareness on how bringing about a sustainable food system for all, requires an integral ecology approach, where economic, social and environmental factors and justice are all considered. 

The COVID-19 health crisis has exacerbated the urgency to change the dominant globalized food system and has provided an opportunity for this issue to rise up in the public agenda. Today, enough food is being produced to feed everyone on the planet, yet, more than half a billion people do not have access to healthy, nutritious and sufficient food. The dominant market-driven food system is not ensuring food security for all and the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and strained this broken system even further, revealing its inequalities. The poor and the vulnerable are being disproportionately impacted by the food chain shocks provoked by the global crisis, which hampers their ability to fully thrive, realize their human rights and contribute to a new horizon for humanity. The food crisis has many facets, but at its core are structural inequities and the necessity to reimagine and create new models that leave no one behind. 

Caritas and JENA seek to form a collaborative alliance as part of their effort to promote food sovereignty and agroecology in Africa. The alliance will represent various groups of Jesuit and Caritas members, experts, those they accompany and serve, and those they collaborate with to promote food sovereignty in Africa. These include smallholder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, like minded institutions, and environmentalists from across Africa. The core purpose of this alliance is to generate knowledge to influence policy and practice around food systems, both local and international, and to promote African solutions for food sovereignty. The alliance is a continent-wide platform for consolidation of issues pertaining to food sovereignty and marshalling out a single and louder voice by articulating clear and workable solutions. JENA and Caritas seek to identify effective and forward-looking approaches to guide the creation of an elaborate framework for collaboration, and to achieve resilient post-crisis food systems in which climate and disaster risk reduction and social justice are mainstreamed.

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