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Africa’s Potential: Leading Food System Transformation and Climate Resilience

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 5 2023 (IPS) - When a continent with 65% of the world’s arable land struggles to feed its 1.4 billion people, we know something is wrong. The African and global food systems need a rethink. The urgent and pressing need to address a more productive, transparent, equitable food system, poverty and the far-reaching effects of climate change requires us to forge alliances among diverse stakeholders and sectors.

In this case, our collective efforts spanning agriculture, poverty alleviation, and the environment is a powerful force to drive lasting change and support thriving communities. Together, we are dedicated to strengthening the continent’s food producers to cultivate a more resilient and sustainable food system.

Africa can lead a global movement toward food system transformation, but challenges like extreme climate impacts, limited access to resources, and power imbalances thwart its effort.

The role of agriculture in poverty alleviation is indisputable; it impacts employment, GDP, food security, and countless livelihoods. To harness this potential, we need a holistic food systems approach that transforms lives while confronting the climate crisis. With global support, Africa can build a food system that enhances food security, prosperity, and ecological equilibrium.

A significant asset on this journey is Africa’s youth, comprising nearly 60% of the continent’s population. By empowering young farmers through training, entrepreneurship, and technology, Africa can tap into their potential for innovative, climate-sensitive agriculture.

These young leaders are already making strides in sustainable agriculture, but they require support to flourish. With secure land rights, financial backing, and proper training, Africa can unleash the full potential of its “agripreneurs”, securing a sustainable agricultural future.

Urbanization, often seen as a challenge, can be turned into an opportunity. As cities grow, so does the demand for locally produced food. Connecting farmers and agribusinesses to urban markets can create thriving agricultural value chains benefiting both producers and consumers.

Investing in agricultural research and technology is paramount. Innovation, digital solutions, and research-driven practices can optimize productivity, resource efficiency, and market insights. This includes precision agriculture, improved seeds, water management, pest control, climate-smart strategies, and supportive policies.

Research, adapted to local contexts, plays a pivotal role in refining and disseminating these strategies, enhancing productivity, sustainability, and resilience. Furthermore, climate-resilient agricultural practices are essential. Blending indigenous knowledge with modern technologies can optimize productivity while reducing the environmental footprint.

Africa’s journey toward agricultural leadership requires support from the global community. International organizations can provide funding, expertise, and knowledge exchange to promote sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.

Collaboration is the cornerstone of success. Through collective action, Africa can tap into its unity and address complex issues more effectively. Organizations like, The Environmental Defense Fund, and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) actively collaborate to advocate for policy changes, knowledge sharing, and support for sustainable and resilient food systems.

Policy reforms are imperative to create an enabling environment for agricultural development. Governments must incentivize climate-smart practices, support value addition, and promote sustainable investments. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), for example, offers a roadmap for policy reforms, coordination, and transparent resource allocation.

Despite challenges, Africa’s agricultural potential is boundless. To overcome obstacles, we must attract financing, harness the innovative spirit of the youth, promote climate-resistant practices, invest in research and technology, and collaborate across sectors.

Climate change is a defining factor in Africa’s ability to feed itself and the world. It demands investments in infrastructure, innovation, and a new generation of climate-sensitive farmers and agripreneurs. This journey requires multi-sector partnerships and collaborative efforts, fueled by various forms of funding, from philanthropy to commercial investments.

Africa’s future, in fact the world’s future, marked by sustainability, inclusivity, and prosperity, is within reach, and it beckons us to act now.

Angela Churie Kallhauge is the Executive Vice President, Impact at the Environmental Defense Fund (HQ in DC); Ishmael Sunga is the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (South Africa); and Serah Makka is ONE’s Executive Director for Africa (South Africa).

IPS UN Bureau


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