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Title: A Continent of Healthy Foods through Community Collaboration across Countries

With the efforts of peasant and indigenous women, African people and Mother Earth are nourished, healthy and enjoying a good life!

Photo of Elizabeth Mpofu
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

* Pastoralist Women for Health and Education, Kenya: Small NGO * Association for Young Farmers of Casamance, Senegal: Youth Organization * Eastern & Southern Africa Farmers' Forum (ESAFF)-Uganda & Zambia: Other - Farmer Network * Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, Ghana: Large NGO * National Federation of Peasant Organizations, Burkina Faso: Other - Peasant Farmer Federation * Rural Women's Assembly, Southern Africa: Other - Peasant Women's Network * University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe: Research Institution * Jeanne Elone, Facebook Africa: Media Outlet * Tabara Ndiaye, American Jewish World Service: Investment based organization * Zoe Vangelder, Stanford University: Research Institution

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The place is Mashava area and is connected to small rural areas in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Zimbabwe, with collaborating community partners in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia.

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The rural area of Mashava in Masvingo province in Zimbabwe and our rural partners in six other countries is home to thousands of peasant and indigenous farmers, whose lives, health and wellbeing are deeply connected to and dependent on their local environment for food, energy, community, and connection to Mother Earth – soil, land, forests, rivers, fish, animals, and seeds, in all their abundance and fragility. It's a place of great meaning, culturally and economically, where the way of life has evolved over generations, yet it’s a place where communities face many challenges from climate change, land appropriation, loss of biodiversity, youth migration to urban areas, lack of healthcare, and sometimes violent conflict. At the heart of these communities, women and girls play a critical role in producing, processing, distributing and preparing a variety of foods for their families, communities and towns. These include finger millet, sorghum, maize, pulses, fruits, vegetables and spices, as well as freshwater fish and animal products. We do so with minimum support and resources, and very limited recognition or rights. Yet this place is also home to outstanding peasant and indigenous women leaders who have overcome extraordinary odds to build place-based organizations serving local populations. In central Zimbabwe, ZIMSOFF serves more than 19,000 smallholder farmers. Uganda, ESAFF Uganda has a membership of 24,000 small scale farmers, 65% of whom are women. In southern Senegal, Association des Jeunes Agriculteurs de Casamance has more than 8,000 members, 75% of whom are women using sustainable methods of agriculture to develop local food systems. Central to this place are peasant and indigenous women leaders in seven countries who have created the African Women's Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems whose mission is to promote a way of life that respects, takes care of and restores Mother Earth and her resources while benefiting African people and their communities.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The area in Zimbabwe is approximately 10,000 sq kilometres and is connected to  rural areas in six other African countries that range in size from approximately 300 sq kilometres to 5000 sq kilometres, depending on the participation of the communities being served. The area includes community lands, individual farms, villages and provincial towns.  We do not at this time have the total population of these rural areas but we can say that the seven organizations in seven rural areas collectively serve over 75,000 peasant farmers, each of whom on average has responsibility for feeding at least five people in their family or household, as well as getting food to local markets. 

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The community food systems we are working with face multiple challenges:

Environmental challenges in 2020 include degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, reduction in community lands, growing impact of climate change with more frequent and extreme droughts, floods, and pest invasion. Many smallholder farmers who produce 70% of Africa’s food are experiencing the stress of changing weather patterns and loss of crops. By 2050 climate change predictions show increased high temperature and extreme weather patterns which will make local food production more risky and difficult.

Because of cultural and political policies - and despite our contribution as protectors of Mother Earth and signicant food producers - peasant and indigenous women are noticeably absent from leadership and decision-making positions within the many African farmer organizations, NGOs and CBOs that are key to building sustainable, nutritious and diversified food systems. Our exclusion is heightened by our lack of access to financial resources that would enable us to define our own priorities and actively mobilize to achieve them. Connecting with other peasant and indigenous women is an essential element of our success, facilitated by communications technology. 

In Senegal, for example, in 2017 total subscriptions to mobile phones were 15,758,366 with 107 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. However, shortages of foreign currency, fuel, electricity, severe drought and cyclones have affected economic activity with impacts on agriculture leading to dependence on food imports, wide-spread food insecurity and unhealthy diet, with growing obesity, heart disease and cancer across the continent. 

More than 70% of the region’s workers are unemployed or in vulnerable employment compared to a global average of 46%.6. One tenth of rural households in Zimbabwe for example indicated they were going without food for a whole day, about double the proportion of urban households In November 2019 90% of children in Zimbabwe aged six months to two years were failing to consume the minimum acceptable diet due to economic hardships (UN Special Rapporteur, Hilal Elver 2019).  By 2050 there are predictions of even more severe food shortages across Africa.

For 2050, some of the biggest economic challenges are adapting/transitioning to a much larger, predominantly young population dealing with the impact of climate change and the huge pressure by other parts of the world to acquire Africa’s rich natural and mineral resources. Poor diet exacerbated by lack of access to clean water, lack of money to utilise medical care, and lack of educational opportunities are predicted for a large proportion of young people. Africa’s population of young people is expected to double by 2050 (Source: The Sub-Saharan Africa Risks Landscape, World Economic Forum

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision will address the challenges by:

--supporting peasant and indigenous women to have a strong economic voice;

--working with peasant and indigenous women to own productive resources, have access to infrastructural support, take control of our own economic growth, have the right to enjoy the profits from our work and have the capacity to play a part in decision-making roles at all levels;

--limiting the appropriation of land and natural resources, leading to the displacement of peasant and indigenous women;

--securing more support and resources for peasant and indigenous women to add value through processing and marketing the foods they produce. This part of the food system is dominated by large businesses selling commercialised crops with limited opportunity for the local grains and diversity of other crops produced by women in our communities;

--mounting a coherent, well-coordinated challenge to the policy and legislation that criminalises the selling of indigenous seeds by rural farmers).

--promoting women’s local seeds to increase women’s income, ecological bio-diversity and community health;

--advancing an identity and framework that can be used by individuals, organizations and networks to counter discrimination, inequity, and ill-health while promoting sustainable food systems in policy and practice;

--building connections with broad-based social movements that are campaigning for women’s rights, economic and environmental justice.

--building on the leadership potential of our fast growing population of young people.

The results will be:

  • Environment: reduction of environmental degradation through increased soil fertility, bio-diversity, and use of green technologies;
  • Diets: increases in locally produced nutritious foods, both in city and countryside, consumer awareness and access to healthy and affordable foods;
  • Economics: regional economies that are vibrant and interconnected; local employment;
  • Culture: sense of place, identity, self-organizing;
  • Technology: low cost, green technologies for rural and urban households, businesses and farms;
  • Inter-connectedness of communities working together.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In 2050, interconnected peasant and indigenous communities are known for their resilience, adaptability, strength, and success in developing and managing local food systems that produce, process and distribute high quality, nutritious, affordable food for consumption by their own households and communities, including local schools, health clinics and community centers. Some foods are also sold in neighboring towns and other outlets.

People’s ingenuity, ability to collaborate and inclusion of all sectors of society mean that they have the ability to address even the most challenging circumstances. Families, farmer organizations, indigenous people’s networks, scientific institutes, local businesses, government officials, development agencies, donors and religious leaders all contribute their knowledge and resources to achieve workable solutions supported by effective policies. Central to their efforts are respect for Mother Earth, the use of sustainable practices, peacebuilding and cohesion through community dialogue, and equitable decision-making processes that include women, youth, peasant and indigenous peoples, and members of marginalized communities.

Though life is often hard, there is joy in working together, keeping healthy, eating well, supporting each other, using new green technologies, creating renewable energy, and seeing the environment recover. After a long struggle, African peasant and indigenous women are accepted as leaders in their communities, due to their ability to provide healthy food, improve educational and health services, negotiate community resources and build relationships with external agencies. Having experienced violence and conflict in their regions, community members are committed to peaceful processes. Many are young people who are excited to build a future for their families, and to have a place in a vibrant food system that brings health and wellbeing to their communities.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our Vision is rooted in the daily realities of peasant and indigenous women in distinct rural areas in several African countries and builds on noticeable achievements to date in strengthening locally managed and sustainable food systems. Our Vision is informed by several critical trends that are catalyzing change and pushing the need for more robust local food systems that are resilient and grounded in culture and community. These major trends are:

* Rapid population growth with a high proportion of young people aged under 25 who are looking to play their part in society with expectations of education, livelihood and leadership;

* Increasingly accessible and affordable communications systems, so that even the most marginalized individuals, households and communities can link into a network to contribute and receive data, learn about threats and opportunities, be part of the marketplace and create solutions collaboratively;

* Innovative low-cost, green technologies that support renewable energy, community food production and processing, local transport and distribution, and that counter the effects and consequences of climate change;

* Powerful social movements across the African continent that are organizing for women’s rights, youth leadership, environmental justice, food sovereignty, an end to corruption and democratic government – all of which are influencing policy, practice, systems development, political representation and resource allocation as part of Africa rising.

Each decade between 2020 and 2050 needs clear vision, strong analysis, powerful partnerships, priority planning and rigorous review. As African peasant and indigenous women leaders we want to ensure our communities get to where we want to be within 30 years. We recognize that we will face immense challenges, serious setbacks, and uncertain resources. We are not afraid, as we have faced and dealt with horrific circumstances in our lives yet we know what it means to work together, to have friendship, to have strong alliances, to know our landscape, to be part of place, and to put food on the table for our families, neighbors, communities and people in nearby towns and beyond. We know what it means to be a cohesive community, 200 strong, or 2,000 strong, or 20,000, or 200,000. By working together within countries and across borders, we build a common vision, share strategies and attract trusted partners. It’s not easy, but that’s our work.

We know that it will take a lot of effort to articulate a 30-year pathway in six increments of five years to realize our vision. We need to do this together in-person and online, and this requires having the equipment for conference calls with reliable internet connection - not something that is easily available in many rural areas. Our most effective method of communication currently is WhatsApp, but it allows only four people to talk with each other. We see a time when we can have live conversations between rural women who are hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart with clear images and sound in two or three languages with automatic translation at little or no cost. We need to be able to talk with each other in order to pool our knowledge, identify relevant strategies, goals and outcomes, and jointly mobilize resources to support our work in our separate but connected communities. A good example is the difficulty we've had in our team getting online to sign up to be part of this application!

Similarly, we need low cost, green technologies that allow us to increase our food production, processing, storage and delivery without adding significantly to our costs and hours of labor. These technological advances alone will likely take 10-20 years - they have been slow in coming, because we’re not seen as profitable enough for agricultural technology research - hence the need for us to work together to raise awareness and put pressure on investors, designers, scientists, technology companies and governments to understand what a huge contribution we make and our role in helping secure a healthy and viable future with nutritious food flows supporting the country’s (and continent’s) health and wellbeing.

We see a number of processes and phases that are key to achieving our vision:

1. Building partnerships

We recognize that we cannot establish local sustainable food systems alone. We need partners that will work with us to help build pathways, provide scientific data on which to make decisions, introduce us to and help us with management and communications systems and software, help us think through what green technologies are effective and affordable, connect us to decision-makers, funders, and policymakers who are outside our current spheres, and that recognize that we always need to include community members in the process to ensure we’re developing practical solutions that can be applied in people’s daily lives. We need our partners to be patient with our individual and organizational schedules and timeframes, as we have to spend a large amount of time on domestic duties, growing food, raising our children, and being active members of our communities. At the same time, we plan to communicate regularly with community members and other stakeholders about our progress and how our local food systems are becoming stronger and more vibrant.

2. Ensuring community peace 

Many communities fight over meagre resources that are not sufficient for all, but by holding community dialogues, people are able to peacefully coexist. Such meetings raise awareness among community members to learn and know their rights as enshrined in the national constitution and laws, individuals are able to stand up for and demand their rights. Steering Committee member Shoba Liban says, “I support our community to identify their priority needs through a community score card method where community members identify their priority needs for health, school services, and agricultural production with access to land, seed and water. Through our own efforts,  we demand what we are supposed to get from the government, and through our initiatives, people’s lives improve.” So peace building and cohesion is an important component that we need to undertake if we are to have peace and stability to diversify our crops, restore our soils, bring produce to market, and feed our communities.

3.  Improving and expanding sustainable food systems through interconnected initiatives

Our organizations are working together to jointly increase our knowledge of nutritious foods, the resilience of seeds that women use in farming, and our understanding of the essential elements that strengthen sustainable food systems. This means that in the next 30 years our members and partners will, step by step, secure women’s rights and resources needed for building our local food systems, prevent the appropriation of these rights and resources, and become competent in the governance, management and use of these rights and resources. Pooling ideas and knowledge, and reviewing each other’s efforts, we will gradually build out our local food systems using sustainable methods in every part of the process, from food production, processing and commercial contracts, to marketing and distribution, consumer awareness and waste recycling. We will continuously review our progress relative to our plans and core principles.


We are very moved to be able to share our work and vision with you. We are seldom given such an opportunity, as we normally have to overcome many hurdles of exclusion, time-consuming duties, and lack of resources to participate. As we look to the future, we feel passionately about creating communities where our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can enjoy healthy lives, find connection in their community and culture, while being part of a wider world where their contribution and efforts are appreciated. We regret that many of our team members have been unable to log in to the Ideo website to make comments due to a variety of constraints, but nonetheless our team members have been contributing to the development of this proposal by reading and responding to drafts by email, sending comments and answering questions through text messages, and providing ideas and input through Whats App conversations. We are persistent, focused and collaborative. Together we achieve our work. Iwe neni tini basa!

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • We heard about the Prize in mid-January through a colleague who works in food systems.
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Attachments (4)

Collaborative_Women's Seeds Paper_FR.pdf

Le Collaboratif souligne le rôle et la contribution des paysannes et des femmes autochtones dans les systèmes alimentaires communautaires. Les femmes ont une relation spéciale avec les semences en tant que trieuses, épargnantes et partageuses. Nous reconnaissons l'importance des graines saines comme source et force des plantes et des animaux qui sont au cœur de nos systèmes alimentaires. Nous partageons nos connaissances et notre expérience sur les semences des femmes.

Collaborative_Women's Seeds Paper_ENG.pdf

The Collaborative highlights the role and contribution of peasant and indigenous women in community food systems. Women have a special relationship with seeds as sorters, savers, and sharers. We recognize the importance of healthy seeds as the source and strength of plants and animals that are central to our food systems. We share our knowledge and experience about women’s seeds and invite others to share their perspective and actions.

Collaborative_Statement of Intent_ENG.pdf

We wish to highlight the significant role and rights of African women in producing, processing and preparing good food for people in homes and neighborhoods across the continent, both rural and urban. We are committed to ensuring that the food we eat is nutritious and healthy and is part of a way of life that respects and takes care of Mother Earth.

Collaborative_Statement of Intent_FR.pdf

Nous souhaitons souligner le rôle et les droits importants des femmes africaines dans la production, la transformation et la préparation de bons aliments pour les personnes dans les foyers et les quartiers à travers le continent, à la fois rural et urbain. Nous nous engageons à faire en sorte que la nourriture que nous mangeons soit nutritive et saine et fasse partie d'un mode de vie qui respecte et prend soin de la Terre Mère.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Elizabeth Mpofu  Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision finalised and published by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST

Photo of Elizabeth Mpofu

Thank you for your encouragement. We attempted to publish what we have prepared so far, but received a notification that we had to complete all sections before we could submit. We expect to complete these by 3pm EST. Sorry we can't get this done earlier but we only learned about this opportunity 10 days ago, so are working hard to pull all the information together in a short space of time.