Rising Food Insecurity — What Now For Africa?

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By Walcott Aganu

Africa’s capacity to provide food security and combat hunger is threatened by climate change. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), undernourished people in African countries has grown by 45.6 percent since 2012. Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s economy, employing the bulk of the continent’s population. As a result, Africa is a climatic variability and change “hot spot” for exposure and susceptibility. According to IPCC projections, warming scenarios could have disastrous consequences for crop production and food security.

The decrease in crop productivity due to heat and drought stress and the increase in pest damage, disease damage and flood impact on the infrastructure of the food system all represent significant agriculture concerns with severe food safety and livelihood consequences at regional, national and household levels. Major cereal crops cultivated across Africa will be negatively impacted by the middle of this century, with geographical variations and variances across crops.

Africa’s response to climate change will influence how future generations are fed. According to newly released research, over 64% more people in Africa became food insecure between 2016 and 2020, with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic likely to exacerbate the problem. According to research, food insecurity hit over 98 million people in Africa in 2020, up from 59.7 million in 2016. Worryingly, the global burden of acute food insecurity has moved to Africa. In 2020, Africa accounted for 63% of the total world number of people who did not have enough food, up 54% in 2019.

In light of climate change, African countries can achieve food security for all through transforming agricultural and food systems.

Leveraging Science To Adapt Agriculture To Climate Change

Science has great potential to deliver sustainable solutions for food security, including innovations to enhance climate change adaption, science-based management of productive resources (land, soil, and water), and food storage and transportability to decrease food waste and loss. Effectively leveraging research necessitates translating scientific solutions into packages that can be distributed and implemented at scale by farmers, both at the farm and landscape levels. This endeavour necessitates strong collaboration between international, regional, and national research organizations and farmers and extension institutions.

Farmers are seeing enhanced food security and resilience in places where climate-smart agriculture is now applied. The Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting, and Hillside Irrigation project in Rwanda, for example, has helped to prevent erosion, increase yields on existing land, and give improved drought protection. According to a Brooking analysis, maize yields grew 2.6 times between 2009 and 2018, with significantly higher gains for beans, wheat, and potatoes.

Harnessing Digital Technologies

Advancements in emerging technologies have the potentials to both solve the food problem and increase Africa’s capacity to adapt. Breakthroughs in global technology such as fifth-generation telecommunications, robots, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology will impact the future of food sustainability. Specific areas of technology investment that will contribute to higher levels of productivity and efficiency in food generation with a decreased impact on the environment encompass initiatives in agricultural biotechnology, such as genetics, microbiome, breeding and animal health; alternative food products, including plant-based forms of alternative protein, which are surging in popularity and adoption; farm management systems, including sensing and data analytics software; farm robotics, including automation and drone based monitoring; and new farming structures, such as indoor farming and aquaculture.

Several instances from around the world show how technology is changing the lives of farmers. Farmers in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya, for example, may now rent machinery that they previously had to buy or couldn’t use at all through Hello Tractor, which connects tractor owners with farmers through text messaging. Tractor services have been provided to over 500,000 farmers. Around 60% of farmers report increased production, and over 90% indicate an overall improvement in quality of life. Platforms like Digital Green and Plantix may significantly boost agricultural output by making it easier for farmers to learn new skills like crop quality monitoring. Plantix is a diagnostic and monitoring application that allows users to submit photos of ill plants, diagnose diseases, pests, and nutrient shortages, and then share their findings with the rest of the community. These technologies immediately contribute to increased productivity throughout the food value chain.

Increase Capital Flow Into Food Sustainability Strategies/Private sector partnerships

Furthermore, African governments must implement tax, investment, regulatory, and subsidy policies that encourage increased capital flow into the transition to viable food sustainability strategies, such as investment in cell-based and plant-based meats—adopting regenerative agriculture practices, such as agribusiness marketplaces and farm robotics, mechanization, and automation. Meeting the food sustainability challenge will need innovation and a new level of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Governments should consider establishing a high-level commission of government and private-sector professionals to develop a holistic food sustainability plan.

Africa is hungry; it’s time for its leadership to hasten the quest to solve the food crisis. It is time for Africa to act ambitiously, applying imagination and strategic determination to this seminal twenty-first-century problem.

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