by Teurai Chanakira
Too often we hear the mantra, “buy locally produced foods, they are better for you” but what does it actually mean for the everyday African person, without the technical health mumbo jumbo terms that we may be tempted to ignore, feeling that it is a topic for those seemingly “obsessed” with Health & Fitness?
What are ‘locally-produced foods?’
Locally produced food means food that is produced as close to the source as possible, so in whichever city you live in, it means for example, buying food from local farmers’ markets or cons in or from other cities in the same country or region.
Thus, African smallholder farmers play a large role in contributing to the production of locally-produced foods, including the men and women we see selling fresh fruit and vegetables from the various market stalls in cities all over Africa. Smallholder farmers, the majority of them women, produce the majority of Africa’s food, often with minimal resources and limited support from government and society. This is because of several factors, particularly our adaptation to more Western lifestyles which has seen our reliance on imported, processed foods increase.
What are the benefits of buying locally-produced foods for the average African person?
- 1. Protect the local economy & community
By being locally produced foods you keep the money circulating within your economy, strengthening it. There is no reason why Africa cannot rely largely on its own food, there are plentiful nutritious and disease-fighting products that we produce from our own soil. Furthermore, supporting the smallholder farmers who grow our food builds good relationships – the foundation of strong communities.
- 2. Exceptional taste & better health
One of the reasons locally produced food tastes better because it doesn’t have to travel several thousand miles to get to you.
The World Health Organisation cites our increasing adaptation on Western lifestyles, including our reliance on imported, processed foods as a large factor contributing to the rise in cancer amongst Africans, particularly with more than 70% of cancer deaths occurring in developing countries. Buying food being aware of where it was produced in your country and knowing that it will have less pesticides, preservatives and other cancer-causing agents, will improve our the health of the local community. The strength of a nation is closely linked to the health of its population.
- 3. Protect the environment
Buying locally produced foods means that it doesn’t have to travel far thus reducing the carbon dioxide emissions, packing materials, preservative chemicals etc. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, on which has visionaries like Kofi Annan (UN Secretary General 1997-2006) and Strive Masiyiwa (Chairman & CEO of Econet Wireless International) on its Board. AGRA aims to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers and recognised the way in which this also helps to protect the environment. One of its aims is to double the income of smallholder farmers by 2020.
…More than anything, it is important to believe that Africa can be healthy and prosperous…so why not start taking the small steps needed to contribute to the security of future generations?