Agriculture in Africa - key to peace
To curb climate change and meet commitments to end poverty by 2030, we must think about the role of agriculture and food on the continent.
The people of Africa matter. It matters for our environment. It matters for our economy. It matters for our planet. Having traveled across the continent to taste food, meet with farmers, government representatives and chefs, and cultivate culinary knowledge that has nurtured our recipes, we are certain that the people of Africa matter even more to ending poverty and protecting our planet from the real and present risks brought on by climate change.
In Nigeria, for example,initiators, the United Nations, the government and the private sector started a pilot led by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund in Kaduna, in the north of the country, to address food waste, youth employment and food security in an integrated way.
We have seen how Africa is transforming the way agriculture is viewed, the way the environment is viewed, and the way markets are viewed and risks are managed. In the more developed regions of the world, we need to think about the food we eat, where it comes from and what it means as part of our global efforts to end poverty by 2030. And also accelerate the achievement of the goals set out in the Paris Agreement on climate change, such as limiting temperature rise to 2°C, by supporting those living in vulnerable situations to adapt their economies to the new climate reality.
Africa needs to modernize its food systems. This modernization must occur at an accelerated pace to prevent the spread of disease, reduce deaths caused by famine and avoid decisions that could threaten to destabilize the region.
Why does agriculture matter so much in Africa?
Let's think of it this way. In Somalia, an estimated 2.7 million people will face climate shocks and food shortages because of a reduction in rainfall forecast. This means that child deaths could increase and more people will be forced to migrate or, at worst, join terrorist and criminal organizations to survive. If we were suffering from hunger, wouldn't we do the same?
So how can we achieve this goal? For starters, we must consider the entire value chain that takes products from farmland to market. In Nigeria, for example, up to 75% of the 1.5 million tons of tomatoes harvested each year are lost. That's a lot of wasted tomatoes.
While Africa has seen remarkable progress in poverty reduction, economic growth and social empowerment over the past decade, the continent as a whole remains dependent on imported food. This is not good for the environment, the economy or sustained growth.
Climate change is compounding the risks. Changes in rainfall patterns, increases in the frequency of droughts and sea level rises threaten farmers who often lack irrigation systems or mechanized farming tools.
The continent is still dependent on imported food. This is not good for the environment, the economy or sustainable development.
It's a numbers game, and we are already behind in building a resilient Africa. Globally, we need to increase food production by 50% by 2050 to feed the nearly 9 billion people who will live on our planet. Africa with its vast natural resources and human capacity could be the way to achieve this goal.
However, we are facing a situation with a difficult way out. We must stop the expansion of greenhouse gases. In Africa, agriculture produces 15% of the continent's total CO2 emissions each year. Without modernization, this figure will increase. And to complicate matters further, according to a report to be published this fall by the United Nations Development Program, climate change could lead to significant drops in production: wheat production could fall by as much as 35% by 2050.
The good news is that Africa is fulfilling its potential. In places like Ethiopia, farmers are implementing solar-powered irrigation systems and looking to cash crops to increase their resilience to climate change. In Somalia, sand dams are saving lives and storing water for farmers. Meanwhile, the United Nations is working with governments, non-profit organizations and farmers across the continent to create the policies Africa needs to transform its agricultural sector.
If we are to slow climate change and meet our global commitments to end poverty by 2030, we will need to think carefully about the role of agriculture and food in Africa. Food is an essential ingredient for life, and in our humble view, it will provide a pathway to a more peaceful world.