The Russian-Ukrainian war and its impact on food in North African Countries

(Poor nutrition and sovereign resistance)

The current wars and the Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the crisis that has been affecting the world economy since 2008. After two years of recession (2020/2021) following the complete lockdown as a result of the Corona virus, and the subsequent collapse of industrial and service facilities, lay off of workers, disruption of production chains, and immediately after the world economy started to bet on system recovery from the pandemic, tensions between the major capitalist countries have been intensified, especially with the trade wars between the United States of America and China, followed by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Our countries’ dependence on major capitalist centers makes them the most affected, particularly in terms of food dependence.

Although North African countries are located far from the geographic areas of these crises, they remain subject to their consequences. Our countries’ dependence on major capitalist centers makes them the most affected, as their dependence is multi-faceted, particularly in terms of food dependence – which is of interest to us in this Special Issue.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the main exporters of wheat in the world, and several countries depend on it to feed their population, especially North African countries, and Tunisia and Egypt in particular.

Indeed, if the countries of the region manage to cover their food needs in the short term, mainly by mobilizing their budgetary resources, they are now facing great difficulties for their external supplies. Even though this war is new, food and agricultural product prices have skyrocketed, by more than 50% for some products. The consequences of this war have also affected the prices of agricultural inputs, which have increased by 100% for fertilizers in some of the region’s countries.

The recent war has also demonstrated the fragility of our food systems and the failure of the neoliberal policies that have been applied in our region for decades. North African countries have, to varying degrees, adopted “modernization” policies built on the marginalization of local knowledge through mechanization and shift from subsistence to commercial and export agriculture, which in turn have led to the intensification of export oriented crops, particularly in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, in line with late colonial approaches.

This paradigm was enhanced after the transition of North African countries to neoliberalism in the early 1980s, under pressure from international financial institutions. Since then, there has been a focus on reducing public debt and social spending and allowing greater market dominance through continuous privatization of public enterprises and gradual undermining of public services. As a result, the government’s gradual withdrawal from traditional agricultural sectors has led to access to food through market mechanisms, whether on world commodity markets, local production or even food aid, to the detriment of food sovereignty in North African countries.

The recent war has also demonstrated the fragility of our food systems and the failure of the neoliberal policies that have been applied in our region for decades.

These policies, by empowering multinational corporations and entering into free trade agreements between North African countries and large capitalist countries, have resulted in the neglect of local agricultural and environmental systems.

Russia’s war on Ukraine concretely reveals what it means for countries to lose their food sovereignty, become dependent on the supply of their food needs, and embrace capitalist trade and export agriculture for the increasingly volatile foreign market. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also highlighted the dependence of our countries and the fact that we could starve if the war expands or turns into a nuclear war as a consequence of the invaders’ insanity.

It has become clear that subjecting our peoples’ nutrition to foreign markets constitutes a form of neo-colonialism with novel mechanisms: debts, agreements, investments by multinationals, acquisition of land and its wealth, elimination of family/subsistence farming, commodification of local seeds, among other aspects of capitalistic warfare against small food producers.

Although we have not yet reached the level of famine in our region, it is clear that the high prices of foodstuffs and food production inputs and the decline in purchasing power can lead to malnutrition along with its health and social consequences for some of the region’s populations.

It is therefore necessary for the people affected to get organized to create a sovereign social resistance fighting for the realization of a food sovereignty project based on agro-ecological practices, which would ultimately protect them from the frequent food crises resulting from dependency on imports and vulnerability to climate change and price fluctuations.

This Special issue sheds light on the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on food supply in North African countries. Given the different effects of war on North African countries, this Special issue will address the impact of war on four countries in the region: Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.

This is an attempt in coordination with a group of researchers and agricultural workers to bring a comprehensive overview of the food situation in our countries in light of the aforementioned war, while also attempting to formulate alternative projects that could serve as an entry point for a unified popular debate on which to build our liberalization project, i.e. peoples’ sovereignty over food production and consumption in North Africa.

Ali Aznague / Morocco

Imen Louati / Tunisia

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Ali AznagueAuthor posts

A researcher and the coordinator of siyada network.