How African food systems continue to struggle to meet the most basic needs
When African leaders spoke at the High Level Virtual Dialogue on Food to Africa last week, one thing stood out; Africa knows its food systems are stuck in a mare’s nest.
Nonetheless, the 17 heads of state attending the event organized to galvanize action around ending hunger and malnutrition on the continent by investing more in agriculture said they would “end hunger. in the next 10 years ”, in a statement of commitments that will be conveyed as Africa’s Commitment to the United Nations Food System Summit 2021.
But Africa has made a lot of promises to end hunger in the past. And even though the continent is supposed to produce more food than it has ever produced before, it seems little has changed on the path to persistent hunger for the more than 250 million Africans who often find themselves without. access to adequate food.
At the heart of Africa’s struggle for economic growth and food security, according to CGIAR Special Representative to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, Kanayo Felix Nwanze, is the contradiction of evidence that shows great return on investment agricultural research and development than any other sector. yet countries continue to prioritize investments in other sectors.
“In 2019, only four African countries were on track to meet agricultural development goals by 2025, while food imports continue to increase each year and are expected to reach $ 100 billion by 2030. Emerge the second contradiction of an Africa which has always relied on external partners for its agricultural development, ”he declared.
“Over the past five to seven years, research institutions across the continent have faced funding gaps, placing Africa at a critical juncture in its goal of accelerating progress towards greater food security. . “
Although 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land is in Africa, the continent remains a net food importer with an annual import bill of around $ 80 billion.
In addition, 70% of Africans could not afford a healthy diet, even before the health and economic crisis linked to Covid-19. Africa faces a looming food crisis, with 55% of the world’s hungry people domiciled on the continent.
With a current population of 1.3 billion people, Africa is projected to have a population of two billion by 2050.
The virtual High-Level Dialogue on Feeding Africa forum, attended by global representatives Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister now founder of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, among others, highlighted the same old bottlenecks in bottlenecks and systemic vulnerabilities ranging from snags in land tenure, poor rains and climate change, low levels of agro-food processing, poor post-harvest handling, lack of adequate resources, etc.
According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the agricultural sector in Africa (excluding North Africa) is expected to need eight times more fertilizer and six times more seeds than it currently uses to reach its yield potential. and production.
The research paper also indicates that Africa still has the lowest levels of agro-food processing in the world due to its dependence on the export of raw materials. The gross value added of agro-processing as a percentage of total GDP in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda is only three to four percent.
In addition, post-harvest losses and wastes during and after food processing also represent a major loss for African agriculture. It is estimated that 48 million people each year south of the Sahara could be fed on post-harvest waste alone. Even if crop yields increase, significant investments must be made in post-harvest handling, including storage and processing for the local food supply to be resilient.
As weak infrastructure and poorly functioning food markets add to the rise in food prices for consumers, a major challenge for farmers to access markets for their produce is often poor roads and roads. infrastructure across most of the continent that is not monitored.
But the boundaries also encompass complex political systems, powerful pressure groups with special interests, and the presence of multiple uncoordinated actors.
This meeting explored vulnerabilities and called on African governments and the global community to take a different approach to transform the sector.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said Africa’s ability to achieve food and nutrition security rests on the shift from traditional farming methods with basic tools to a modern production system supported by research, productivity, sustainability, diversification and transformation of local infrastructure, as well as access to credit. for farmers.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde said current circumstances had left 16 countries in acute hunger. She said her government was advancing agricultural reform programs to deal with the problem of chronic hunger.
“Very few countries have achieved middle-income status without first transforming agriculture. Agriculture has been the foundation for the growth and flourishing of many other sectors, ”she said.
The two-day event organized by the AfDB and the United Nations agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, aimed to develop a Pan-African framework for food security after Covid-19 and before the United Nations pre-summit on food systems in Rome on July 19. -21, launch new daring actions to progress.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said encouraging young African graduates to engage in agriculture could unleash the potential of African agriculture to achieve food security.
According to Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his country, as in many others on the continent, despite the work done in the field of research and development in the sector, “most of their discoveries end up collecting dust on them. shelves and ordinary farmers. do not benefit from their findings. “
Of the 49 Member States that reported on progress in implementing the Malabo Declaration during this 2019 biennial review cycle, only four countries, including Rwanda, Morocco, Mali and Ghana , are on track to meet Malabo’s commitments by 2025.
Written by Pauline Kairu