“The Youth of the Agricultural Sector” in Morocco hosted Mariam al-Jaajaa, General Manager of the APN (a member organization of the Arab Network for Food Sovereignty), as its main spokesperson for the network in the digital symposium titled "Food Sovereignty Today in Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” held on October 17, 2020.
The webinar coincided with World Food Day and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Both Badia Araba from the National Federation of the Agricultural Sector (FNSA) in Morroco and Faisal Oshan from the National Union of Peasants (SNP) in Morocco attended the webinar. The discussions at the webinar were moderated by Bader Al Raish, General Secretary of the Agricultural Youth Organization in Morrocco.
Participants assessed and discussed current agricultural policies in the Arab world and presented some alternative solutions and propositions. They also discussed the conditions and circumstances of small-scale farmers, taking into consideration that their role is essential in achieving food sovereignty as well as looking at the contributions of international and regional organizations in this context.
Al-Jaajaa explained how food sovereignty is a precondition for achieving real and sustainable food security and outlined the right of peoples to define policies related to their food and agricultural systems. She stressed that there is no sovereignty over political decisions without sovereignty over food. Al-Jaajaa added that this link between food production and independence has been understood and exploited by imperialist powers over many decades, resulting in the marginalization of ever more farmers, the destruction and theft of resources, and markets inundated with foreign products.
Turning to the Coronavirus pandemic, al-Jaajaa spoke on how the crisis has revealed the fragility of global food systems while increasing poverty, hunger and the erosion of rights across the region. She explained that food insecurity is most evident in crises and regions of the world experiencing war or occupation, as it becomes a form of collective punishment despite protections in international law which include the right to food.
She added that the impact of the economic and political impacts of the coronavirus on the region might be more devastating than its temporary effect on food security and the disease itself. In Palestine, for example, international and civil society's preoccupation with the virus has distracted from the occupation’s increased destruction and its land theft, most evident in the plan to steal the Palestinian Valley, which produces 65% of food in the West Bank and constitutes 30% of its area. Gaza, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other countries are also experiencing the impact of the virus in the nexus between food, politics and economics.
Regarding solutions, al-Jaajaa said that the official remedies of national governments have not been sufficient, as most were very temporary and based on short-term humanitarian assistance without seeking to address the roots of food system fragilities. She recommended bringing food producers and those affected by hunger together in planning and implementing agricultural projects.
Al-Jaajaa concluded that the effects of the coronavirus are challenging, but may constitute an opportunity to advance agriculture policy at the local, regional and international levels. She outlined this path for this change: enhanced localized food production and access to resources, forming networks of civil society organizations in the Arab region, and amplifying the voices of small farmers who can evaluate effective solutions