Ending hunger and ending food waste are both central to the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the African Union’s AGENDA 2063 and the Malabo Declaration/AU regional priorities. The good news is we can tackle both simultaneously, argues Talentus Mthunzi from the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).
A report published recently by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service entitled “International Food Security Assessment 2011-21” lays out predictions for global Food Security over the forthcoming decade.
The study found that, despite global food commodity prices, strong domestic food production and low price transmission from global to domestic markets contributed to a decline of 9 million in the number of food-insecure people from 2010 to 2011. Yet there are still notable regional differences.
According to the report, whilst Asian countries are set to see a decrease of food-insecure people by 33 per cent by 2021, the number of food-insecure people in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is projected to increase by 17 million. By 2021, it is predicted that SSA will see a rise of six per cent in its food-insecure population.
The report also found that the food distribution gap in SSA – the difference between projected food availability and food needed to increase consumption in food-deficit income groups – is also up by 20 per cent, whilst the distribution gap is projected to decline by half in Asia and by 30 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Land degradation affects more than half of Africa, leading to a loss of an estimated US$42 billion in income and 5 million hectares of productive land each year. A precision-farming technique called “microdosing” is helping farmers address the problem of soil infertility.
The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a member of CGIAR, has carried out research on land degradation in sub-Saharan Africa, where overuse of soil and low, unpredictable rainfall cause poor levels of food production. Given the risks involved with an unpredictable climate, farmers are not willing to invest in fertilizers to replenish the soil, and consequently soils are depleted, yields and crop quality decline, and hunger and under-nutrition are exacerbated. A vicious cycle is created: unproductive land is left and farmers clear forests to free up new land to plow.
Microdosing involves the application of small, affordable quantities of fertilizer onto the seed at planting time, or a few weeks after emergence. The microdosing technique increases the efficiency of fertilizer use, and helps improve productivity. The method uses about one-tenth of the amount typically used on wheat, and one-twentieth of the amount used on corn in the US. The small dosage needed illustrates just how depleted of nutrients African crops are.
The microdosing method has been introduced to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, making fertilizer use a productive and economically viable option for the farmers.
However, there have been constraints to the technique, involving lack of access to fertilizer and credit, insufficient training and lack of supportive policies.
In eastern and southern Africa, ICRISAT is working with private fertilizer companies to identify appropriate fertilizer types and promote the sale of small packets suited to the resource constraints of small-scale farmers.
Working with its partners, ICRISAT hopes to increase the number of farmers using the microdosing technique from 25,000 to 500,000 in the next few years.
For more information on fertilizer microdosing, read the full case study from ICRISAT.
At the end of August, over 200 policymakers, farmers, agrodealers, scientists and non-governmental organisations from across Africa and the world gathered in Windhoek, Namibia for the annual FANRPAN Regional Food Policy Dialogue to discuss the most pressing issues facing African agriculture.
Food security is still only an aspiration in Africa. At the dialogue, the delegates discussed the potential solutions available, highlighting the need for increased funds, training, market access and continued research to help African farmers access the information and tools they need .
Climate change is exacerbating the problem of low agricultural productivity in Africa. FANRPAN made clear the need for effective evidence-based policies to help tackle the challenges.
The theme for this year’s dialogue was livestock and fisheries the face of climate change.
FANRPAN also accepted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the 14th country node within the network, and it announced that its remit will be extended to become Africa-wide, rather than just focused on sub-Saharan Africa.
This year’s FANRPAN Food Security Policy Leadership Award was presented to the President of Namibia, H.E. Hifikepunya Lucas Pohamba as recognition of his country’s achievement in creating responsible fisheries policies in Namibia, which have already been commended by the UN FAO in 2009.
At the dialogue, BBC World Service’s Focus on Africa radio show interviewed two participants along with FANRPAN’s CEO, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda. Klaus Shade is an Economic Analyst and Research Associate at the Institute of Public Policy Research and Gerald Nelson is a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
You can listen to the interviews here:[audio:https://farmingfirst.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/fanrpran_2010.mp3]
Resilience to climate change means different varieties of animals, maybe even changes in species that we grow and certainly more storage of grains to deal with the changes in the climate patterns that we can see coming forward even if we cannot predict where or when. – Gerald Nelson
We know the answers: it’s all about technology. And how do we get these technologies to be affordable accessible to the majority of farmers. In most cases the technologies are there, but they are not affordable. – Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda