I Am an Activist FOR Food


When I see my fellow South Africans queueing up for food, the sad sight reminds me that we still need to decolonize our minds.

People in the developed world may have trouble understanding that even though we’re no longer ruled by colonial masters from Europe, we continue to be influenced by European ideas that harm our interests.

This is especially true in agriculture.

As a farmer who grows corn, beans, pecans, and other crops, I’m always thinking about how new technologies can create a more resilient food system—but because of colonial mindsets, I continue to encounter resistance to this idea.

So I’ve become an activist for food.

I used to be an activist for racial justice in South Africa. I battled against the cruelty of apartheid. I’m pleased to say that despite ongoing difficulties, we prevailed in this important effort.

Today, I want to remain an active citizen in my community, so I’m fighting for GMOs and other agricultural innovations. After all, it was agriculture that pulled me out of poverty and allowed me to meet my goals. If I don’t, the next generation of Africans will blame me and my contemporaries for having failed them.

We need these tools to feed ourselves and lift Africa out of poverty.

children sitting on windowI’ve seen the desperation caused by hunger. It’s in the eyes of pensioners when they wait for food.

It’s also in the actions of people who seek to steal my crops. This problem became much worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the government ordered people to stay home, businesses and factories failed. Today, unemployment in South Africa is at an all-time high, with about one-third of our people lacking work. Young people are having the hardest time finding work.

Many have turned to thievery. They trespass on my farm and try to filch what they can. I’ve caught some and taken them to the local police station. I’ve also had to fight to protect my property.

It gives a new meaning to the term “food security.”

At the same time, I’m doing everything I can to promote the usual definition of food security: the goal that people should have access to the safe and nutritious food in a fair system of exchange that meets the economic needs of consumers and farmers.

To achieve this, farmers like me must have access to GMOs, crop-protection tools, and modern equipment. I know what it’s like to grow food without these tools—and believe me, it’s much better for everybody when we can use them.

Yet many of my fellow farmers in South Africa remain trapped in the past, mentally stuck in the old ways of farm production. Some continuing to use animals to drag their equipment across their farms.

This is no way to achieve food security in my country or on my continent.

three women carrying basin while walking barefootThe more food African farmers grow, the less people will have to pay for it. Farmers like me also will enjoy a new level of prosperity. The ability to plant, protect and harvest GMO crops helped me to put one of my children through college. I couldn’t have afforded it without this technology.

Although many South Africans now accept GMOs and use crop protection tools, plenty of my countrymen do not. They continue to hear the lie, mostly from European anti-technology activists, that these crops are poisonous.

Foolish! If GMOs were poisonous, I wouldn’t grow them. I wouldn’t allow them on my land.

Just as I struggle to keep bandits out of my fields, I am working to keep harmful European ideas about agriculture out of South Africa.

I am a whistle blower, and my best ally is the truth—the truth the GMOs are safe and nutritious. I spend a lot of my time explaining this simple fact to fellow South Africans who have doubts.

I also invite non-farmers to visit my farm on GMO Awareness Days. They can walk with me and see my crops, either in person or virtually on WhatsApp and Facebook. They can ask questions and hear my answers.

This allows me to describe why I choose 21st-century technologies and show the curious why they’re better than the primitive methods of farming that have condemned Africa to suffer from the world’s lowest level of food production.

The anti-technology people are always welcome to come and tell us their side of the story, but they never show up.

The solution is obvious. We’ve decolonized our countries. Now we must decolonize our minds.

Motlatsi Musi

Motlatsi Musi

Mr. Motlatsi Musi grows maize, beans, potatoes, breeding pigs and cows on 21 hectares he acquired in 2004 through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Program (LRAD) in South Africa. He was recognized Oct 17 in Des Moines, Iowa as the 2017 Kleckner Award recipient.

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