How to ensure food security in Africa

Global food systems have been hit by overlapping crises in recent years. Among these, the most important are the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian-Ukrainian war and extreme weather events resulting from climate change. These have led to forced migration, job losses, climate stress, loss of biodiversity, economic instability and a growing deterioration in food security.

In Africa, home to 1.5 billion people, these shocks and stressors have slowed or even reversed decades of progress in improving food security and nutrition. For example, 37 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa face acute hunger in one of the region’s worst droughts in decades.

These multiple crises have forced the world to recognize that improving nutrition and food security requires more resilient national and global food systems. Food systems are the sum of actors and interactions along the food value chain, from the supply and production of inputs to transport, processing, retail, wholesale, preparation, consumption and disposal.

As stated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG2), the journey towards food and nutrition security for Africa has a clear destination: zero hunger. The goal is to ensure access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all by 2030.


The Africa Food Security Report

The recently launched Africa Agriculture Report examines the continent’s progress towards food and nutrition security.

We are co-editing the report, which has six key themes. Build a roadmap to reach the finish line faster while adapting to a changing environment. Our report coincided with World Food Day 2022, the theme of which is Safer Food, Better Health.

Without transformative change like the Asian Green Revolution, African food systems will continue to impede human development. They will also remain too dependent on food imports. Without a strong push towards sustainable agricultural practices, the continent’s food systems will compound environmental destruction.

Urgent action is needed to anticipate megatrends, mobilize political will, mobilize investment and build capacity.

Five ways to transform African food systems:

The need for real cost accounting

Development professionals working in Africa need real cost accounting for our food systems. It must explicitly take into account all the environmental, social and human health outcomes associated with the way food systems are organised. For example, 74% of the growth in agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000 has been achieved through area expansion and only 26% through increased yields.

It’s far from ideal. The reliance on area expansion has converted forests and grasslands into large-scale agricultural land. The result has been extensive damage to the stock of natural resources and ecosystem services in the region.

A true cost accounting framework establishes the costs of this approach. This would lead to the recognition that technical innovation is important to improve yields on existing agricultural land. This would show that it is a more sustainable approach to production growth, better health and better nutrition.

Stay ahead of megatrends

African governments must be prepared for the major demographic, economic, environmental and social trends shaping the continent’s food systems. These include:

  • rapid population growth, associated land scarcity and rapidly rising land prices
  • rapidly growing demand for food, driven by rapidly growing urban areas, rising incomes and purchasing power
  • more frequent and intense weather disturbances associated with climate change
  • global health crises, economic shocks and civil conflicts such as the Russian-Ukrainian war
  • Technical innovation in digital agriculture.

African food systems continue to evolve in response to these drivers. Food policies and investment strategies must also change. We are chasing a moving target.

Leadership role

Leadership is essential to harness collective effort, shared responsibility, stakeholder commitment and political will to transform food systems.

Political leaders can press the accelerator or press the brakes. The complex nature of our food systems demands that key actors, including national governments, international agencies, civil society, farmers’ organizations and the private sector, work together towards a common goal.

Governments and regional bodies are at the center of interventions in food systems.

investment gap

Funding is the fuel needed to accelerate transformation. According to recent estimates from New Growth International, a network-based management consultancy, transforming food systems in Africa requires up to $77 billion a year from the public sector and up to $180 billion from the private sector. private.

To mobilize financing at scale, African governments must:

  • set priorities
  • commit to funding priority actions
  • improve coordination between government and the private sector
  • ensuring good governance and accountability.

abilities and abilities

Africa must invest in human, institutional and systemic capacities at the national level. Capacity development efforts should be guided by seven basic principles: country ownership and leadership; alignment with national needs and priorities; use of national systems and local experience; there is no “one size fits all” tactic; multilevel approaches; and mutual accountability.

We also note that although agricultural research capacity increased by 90% between 2000 and 2016, there has been a decline in public investment in agricultural research systems. This threatens Africa’s ability to adapt the latest technologies to local conditions.

A call to action for food security

There is an urgent need to transform African and global food systems to make them more resilient and sustainable. Failure is not an option.

Transformation will require a coordinated approach from governments, development partners, the private sector and civil society. Now is the time to put into practice the carefully crafted strategies, policy reforms and investment plans highlighted in the latest report.

This article was written by Edward Mabaya, research professor at Cornell University; Robert B. Richardson, professor of sustainability at Michigan State University; and Thomas Jayne, professor of agricultural, food, and resource economics at Michigan State University. It is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Articles in English

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