The theme for this year’s World Food Day is “Grow, nourish, sustain! Together. Our actions are our future.” The truth in this theme cannot be overemphasized in the case of Africa. Our actions will define our future.
Food and nutrition security has always taken centre stage in development discussions. In recent decades, Africa and a few countries in Asia have contended with high levels of food insecurity. The world target is to achieve “Zero Hunger” by 2030. Recent statistics show that of the 7.5 billion individuals in the world about 25% are food insecure; larger proportions of these individuals are found in Africa and they reside in the rural areas.
A recent FAO report shows that Africa has experienced a slight improvement in food security (direct and hidden hunger). As at 2019, 256 million Africans, representing twenty percent (20%) of the population, were malnourished. Ninety-three percent (93%) of these were in sub-Saharan Africa and the remaining seven percent (7%) in Northern Africa. The improvement is still modest to be noticeable in the quality of life of the populace.
Food and nutritional insecurity is a result of many compounding factors (poverty, subsistence agriculture, climate change, unstable economic environment, poor policies and weak institutions, conflicts etc.). The approach required to generate a sustainable solution to resolve the above factors should be multidimensional, multisectoral and intentional. Such an approach will require a mechanism for tracking to ensure the delivery of the expected outcomes.
The current COVID-19 pandemic offers a warning for policymakers on Africa as well as the entire population. Fortunately, the doom and gloom predicted to befall the continent has not materialized. However, food pricing and availability were adversely affected. It is imperative that African countries invest a lot more in science and innovation throughout the agriculture value chain, to ensure a high level of productivity as well as cost-effective solutions for storage and distribution of food.
The notion of food storage is vital in times of crises. The size of the strategic food reserve in a country is of great importance to managing food security issues especially in times of crises.
As part of the contribution of agricultural research and innovation in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on food security, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the implementing partners of the EU-funded CAADP XP4 programme have indicated that holistic investments in food reserve facilities are essential to the stabilization of food prices, thereby mitigating the risks associated with agriculture. This is one of the measures that will attract the youth into farming which is currently dominated by the aged.
The continuous investment in research to generate new knowledge and technologies is a necessary condition for attainment of food and nutrition security. Africa cannot attain food security by outsourcing the generation of technologies it requires to advance its agriculture, hence the need for countries to adopt the Science Agenda for Africa in Agriculture (S3A) as their instrument for setting and implementing their agendas for agricultural transformation.
Public and private investments in agriculture are fundamental to expanding the growth of commercial agriculture. This is evident in Nigeria where the rice and poultry value chains are undergoing a revolution. The example of Nigeria shows that with strong political will, appropriate investments and adequate infrastructure, Africa can feed itself. This momentum needs to be sustained and scaled up to other commodities and across the continent. It is also essential for the realization of the vision of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Obviously, the overarching philosophy is knowing that our actions will define our future. As such all stakeholders in Africa need to brace up and join hands to ‘Grow our food system, to nourish our population and sustain our economies and regional integration! Together’, yes Together.