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How to position Africa for sustainable food systems post-COVID-19

Threats of a looming food crisis in Africa and an anticipated 2.5 billion population growth by 2050 have necessitated the need for the continent to proactively outline sustainable measures to increasing food production and achieving food security.

This was deliberated at the ongoing 11th edition of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit, themed “Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems” hosted by the Government of Kenya and the AGRF Partners Group.

Discussions at the summit centered on the urgent need and possible ways to transform Africa’s agriculture and create a sustainable and resilient food system as well as how best to achieve zero hunger in Africa which aligns with the United Nations sustainable development goal.

Fadel Ndiame, deputy president, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said following the emergence of the Coronavirus pandemic which triggered health, economic, and food crises and amplified other challenges, Africa in its recovery drive needs to learn lessons from other countries on best ways to forge ahead.

Taking a cue from China, Ndiame said Africa needs to develop a tradition of innovation and transformation that will drive accelerated recovery and build buffers against such occurrences in the future.

Read also: The fury of floods and food security

“Going forward, food security must be prioritized in Africa, also Africa needs to utilize agricultural revolution for sustainable practices,” Mbelwa Kairuki, Ambassador of Tanzania to China said.

He said that by 2030, Africa’s agricultural market is expected to reach $1 trillion, hence countries in the continent must be well-positioned to utilize this opportunity. Kairuki added that already Africa has 65 percent of uncultivated arable land as well as other resources at its disposal.

He said other inputs to achieve the goal include improved technology adoption, utilizing e-commerce platforms, green channel policies, improved exports, and proper farmland management systems.

Speaking on resources, Andrew Cox, Chief of Staff and Strategy, AGRA said Africa needs to develop its farmlands and employ practices that boost its productivity, adding that raising yields and productivity on existing farmland is among the most important ways to make African food systems more resilient and sustainable.

“Raising productivity on existing farmland will reduce pressures for continued expansion of cropland, and preserve valued forest and grassland ecosystems and the biodiversity that they provide,” he said.

Speaking during a panel session that focused on mitigating COVID-19s impact on its food system; possible takeaways for Africa, Fengying Nie, director general, and research fellow, Agriculture Information Institute, Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science said Africa needs to leverage its products with a competitive advantage which will sufficiently address local and international demand.

She said that the government needs to implement clear and deliberate policies that will aid productivity in the agricultural sector while building frameworks that will establish a resilient and sustainable food system.

“There is a need to make huge investments in the sector and provide strategies to manage possible risk while expanding production capacity. Furthermore, rural areas need to be empowered with necessary infrastructure and support from the government, corporate organizations, and individuals,” she said.

According to the Africa agriculture status report titled “A decade of action: building sustainable and resilient food systems in Africa”, the continent has the knowledge to build sustainable and resilient food systems, but the task is complex and will require new thinking as well as new capacities.

“While adapting African food systems to become more resilient and sustainable requires substantial investments from both African governments and the private sector, the costs of maintaining the status quo and an unsustainable food system will be much greater,” it stated.

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