The 2017 World Food Prize has been awarded to Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank. Dr. Adesina promotes a future for African agriculture reliant on chemical fertilizers and patented genetically modified seeds and has been heralded as “Africa’s Norman Borlaug.” In stark contrast, the international recipient of the 2017 Food Sovereignty Prize, Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF), is the voice of over 10,500 peasants struggling for social justice and food sovereignty across Zimbabwe. ZIMSOFF’s main objective is empowering farmers themselves, especially those who work on a small scale, in developing strategies that lead to the reduction of poverty.
The organization encourages and promotes adoption of sustainable technologies, development of value added products, and transition to organic farming. It influences policies and public awareness on agroecology and farmers rights, with particular attention to the participation and leadership of rural women and youth.
ZIMSOFF is especially active in one of the key building blocks of food sovereignty: seed saving. Farmer-managed seed-saving is an age-old practice, and ZIMSOFF says these methods currently provide over 80 percent of the seed used for food production in Zimbabwe. Recognizing that industry control of the food chain begins with control of seed, ZIMSOFF supports breeding of locally-adapted varieties, recovering and re-valuing seed knowledge, and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange. It is a member of the Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme members, an alliance of seven Zimbabwean civil society organizations working towards greater natoinal seed sovereignty, and the regional Seed and Knowledge Initiative, along with members in South Africa, Malawi, and Zambia.
ZIMSOFF has garnered international recognition for its work on food sovereignty La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement for food sovereignty, has had its International Operative Secretariat based in Zimbabwe with ZIMSOFF since 2013, and ZIMSOFF chairwoman Elizabeth Mpofu was appointed as United Nations Special Ambassador for the International Year of Pulses in 2016. The organization is also a member of the Eastern and Southern Small-Scale Farmers Forum of Africa.
For its farmer-first approach, its dedication to seed preservation and use, and its overall commitment to building Zimbabwe’s food sovereignty, we are pleased to award the 2017 Food Sovereignty Prize to the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum.