Most often the African food supply system suffers serious setbacks as a result of activities around the globe which may not necessarily happen in Africa. The most prominent one was during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which led to closure of borders around the world.
Secondly the ongoing war in Ukraine has a great impact on Africa’s food supply system because the continent had relied on Ukraine for grains and other food commodities, but the war had cut the supply of these commodities which has led to high cost of scarce food commodities in Africa.
The question is: For how long will Africa’s food system be vulnerable or subjected to the dictates of activities or events outside the continent? They are many answers but the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in its new flagship Television program called KIKAO adopted a new approach to raising awareness on this issues and has brought together experts who discussed how to build a resilient agricultural system in Africa so that the continent can attain a level of self-sufficiency in food production and cushion any impact of global shock.
The anchor Kikao, Dr Canisius Kanangire, the Executive Director of AATF highlighted the challenges of soaring food and fuel prices in Africa as a result of global activities.
He said “the prices of basic commodities across Africa, and the world have skyrocketed in recent times. There have been many theories seeking to explain these trends, ranging from political events to global happenings, such as COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and drought.
“In this episode of Kikao, we will highlight these recent trends, the drivers, and the impact they’re likely to have on food production, trade and access in Africa. We will particularly focus on understanding how these global crises that are unfolding thousands of miles away are impacting rural villages on the African continent. Further, we will examine some actions that can be undertaken to deal with a challenge in both the short and long run.
Dr Joy Kiiru, at the Department of Economics, University of Nairobi when reacting to the challenges of Africa in the face of soaring prices of food and fuel, said the continent is likely to witness increase in poverty and starvation if adequate measures were not taken.
“People are watching every day as their normal incomes are buying less and less than they used to buy before, and you’re talking about reduced incomes, we’re likely to see increases in poverty, we’re likely to see increases in starvation or inadequate food for people. And of course, if it’s not checked, then if we follow that trend, then you’re likely to also see impacts on health, if the situation is not checked enough. And of course if we still don’t check it enough and we continue like this, citizens will be angry.
On the prospect of agriculture in Africa in 20 years’ time, Dr Kiiru said “we are looking at a situation whereby agriculture and most of the food system in Africa is produced through the subsistence way, whereby small scale farmers who are poor producing for the majority of the people, they’re using a technology which is outdated, it’s not because they don’t want to adopt technology, it’s not because they don’t receive those messages on their phones about what is selling, but the truth is they are they’re incapacitated because of their income levels and that is where we have to start; farmers diversification in terms of livelihood and building resilience, because unless a farmer has got something to spare, it’s only when they can wait until the prices are better for them to sell, so that they can improve the income through agriculture”.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Kenya Representative, Ambassador Carla Mucavi, said the soaring food prices and fuel is really impacting on food security and nutrition.
“Coming from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the last report which we call the Global Report on food crisis, is already indicating that globally we’re talking about 192 million of people that are really food insecure, why are they food insecure, even before the war in Ukrainian, this number was also there, so of course we have been working at this statistics and surely it will increase.
“And this is because, again about climate change the impact of climate change, we see it in a prolonged the drought, intense floods in Kenya where we are, we just control the invasion of the desert locust that really impacted again on communities, particularly in north and east Kenya, and this again really impacted on food and nutrition security of the communities”, she said.
She said what is happening in Africa today is a combination of factors, but mainly the war in Ukraine has really contributed to the disruption of the food supplies.
“Unfortunately, I guess that that’s the reality, the world is global, we live in a globalised world, we are so interconnected, so what happened, even if we think that is really far away from us, it really impacted on us.
“So to say that, of course, the disruption of food supply, it means that of course, the foods that were really imported because we have to take into consideration that both Ukraine and Russia are really very important suppliers of grains of oil or fertilisers that we in this continent are importing.
“So of course this disruption of food suppliers with restrictions of grain, cereals and oils, which means that there are restrictions, they are limited Of course, no possibilities of buying it and then of course, the prices are increasing”, she noted.
Mucavi said African have serious problems of access to food and particularly affordability because the communities will not have those resources because of their income and will not be able to buy food.
“So actually at the end of the day, we’ll see food insecurity deepening and malnutrition which is already acute, in the world 1000s of kids under the age of five that are really malnourished. But there is another phenomenon that we really already see particularly in urban settings which is obesity.
“People are not really eating healthy foods because of course they don’t have access because it’s expensive, it’s going to be even more expensive. So you will go for fast food, non-nutritious food, which means that you have to see obesity also increasing which has a big impact on a health condition” Mucavi noted.
On what Africa can learn from COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Dr Kiiru said for the past 10 years, the world has been pursuing globalisation interconnectedness trade.
“That means that there is this interconnectedness which is good, but also there are other risks. And that means when these are shocked, in a faraway continent, because of being interconnected, it affects people.
“What have we learned from that? I think one of the lessons you can take away is that there is space for all these interconnectedness, there is space for diversification at the local level, not because you have a competitive advantage, but as a strategy to cushion ourselves against external shocks.
“Meaning that as a government, you’re going to try as much as we can to ensure that we still have the capacities, the abilities to be able to produce at least more than three quarters of our food needs domestically if we can, and that is possible, especially in Africa.
“If we can strengthen and focus on our agricultural system and focus on the people in terms of improving their ability to produce and to store and also incentives to make that possible, I think that is the best strategy that we can do”, she said.
Speaking on the strategies to produce more food in Africa, Mucavi said the reality is that as a continent and a region, Africa needs to invest in agriculture.
She said Africa is so blessed with land, water and sun, therefore what the continent needs is to invest in and increase production and productivity.
“it requires investing, we have the Maputo declaration, where heads of states of this continent agreed to allocate 10% of their GDP into agriculture. But you know, when you look around, very few countries have reached that target.
So if we’re not investing we cannot harness that potential that we have to feed our people, and of course, even to feed the world, Africa has that potential.
“So again, I really go back to the food system Summit. In Kenya, they were really very engaging and consultative national dialogues that came out with very strong pathways that is really showing that we should build the resilience of the farmer so that they can resist the shocks with programmes such as climate smart agriculture and others.
Let’s invest in digitalization, we have to bring research, research is really very important, improve the seeds that can resist shocks and climate change, talk about technology, talk about science, talk about data so that we can really focus on our approaches.
“And of course, there are opportunities in agriculture, invest in women that are really the backbone of agriculture. So for young people, when you really bring the science, the technologies, innovation, which is so critical, from production to consumption, we talk about processing and transportation.
“So there is so much that we can really harness if we invest in agriculture, we can no longer continue to depend on the rain-fed, we really have to look at irrigation schemes. So those are the things that we have really to do and they are doable, and I should say that if we do it, we’ll see that transformation that we need”, Mucavi stated.
Furthermore on the continental free market, the Kenyan FAO Representative said it is critical and so powerful. She said the free trade market is a big opportunity that as a continent, Africa should take advantage of it.