The Covid-19 crisis has had several unexpected effects, including renewed attention to food security concerns. Earlier understandings of food security in terms of production self-sufficiency have given way to importing supplies since late 20th century promotion of trade liberalization.
Warnings at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that Africa could be hit by a wave of up to 10 million cases within six months thankfully now seem unfounded, although it is still far too early to be over-confident.
As she says goodbye to a group of her friends, Esther Ishabakaki asks whether any of them knows a good tailor who might be interested in joining her newly-opened clothing business. It’s a venture she started three months ago after quitting her farming venture.
COVID19 has brought the world to a halt. The devastating impact of the global pandemic on people’s lives and the world’s economy is a jarring and historic turning point for all of us but it is also an opportunity to re-think many of our practices.
Few things are as natural and as necessary as eating food. However, if food producers, food processors, food handlers and consumers do not follow good food safety practices, food can become contaminated and rather than nourishing us and bringing us pleasure it can make us sick or even kill us.
Food security in sub-Saharan Africa is under threat. The ability of many Africans to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs has been disrupted by successive natural disasters and epidemics. Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, locust outbreaks in eastern Africa, and droughts in southern and eastern Africa are some examples. The COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest catastrophe to have swollen the ranks of 240 million people going hungry in the region. In some countries, over 70 percent of the population has problems accessing food.
Shurugwi communal farmer, Elizabeth Siyapi (57) can no longer be scammed by unscrupulous middlemen to sell her crops cheaply. Nowadays, before she takes her produce to market she scours her mobile phone, which has become an essential digital agriculture data bank, for the best prices on the market.
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe' second city of some 700,000 people, has experienced a shortage of vegetables this year, with major producers citing a range of challenges from poor rains to the inability to access to bank loans to finance their operations. But this shortage has created a market gap that Zimbabwe smallholders — some 1.5 million people according to government figures — have an opportunity to fill.
In Rwanda, Benimana Uwera Gilberthe, a scholar and pepper producer, experienced first-hand the challenges of breaking into agribusiness.
While in Nigeria, Ayoola Adewale is trying to understand if poultry egg farming will prove a profitable and viable business opportunity to the youth of the continent’s most populous nation. Also in Nigeria, Esther Alleluyanatha is understanding the link between young people leaving their villages for larger cities, the remittances they send home, and the implications on rural livelihoods and agriculture productivity.
Nobukhosi Cebekhulu (68) and Khetsiwe Tofile (64) are small-scale vegetable farmers who are producing from their permaculture home gardens in Malkerns, Eswatini.
Heartbreaking images of Indian farmers standing amidst swathes of rotting vegetables, fruits and grain have been flooding newspapers and TV screens lately. Crashing prices and transport bottlenecks due to the 40-day coronavirus lockdown in India, on till May 3, have driven some to set their unsold produce ablaze.
“It is not easy to be in agriculture but you must have the perseverance and you must have the passion for it,” Ngozi Okeke (30), the director of operations at Frotchery Farms, tells IPS during a tour of the company’s factory in Ibadan, Nigeria. For Okeke, passion and patience are pivotal to business success. But she also recognises the need to create opportunities to nurture agripreneurship
among Africa’s growing ranks of unemployed youth.
Brazil is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coffee, sugar, beef, soya, cotton, and ethanol but due to its environmental and water footprint it ranks low on sustainability. Brazilian agriculture’s contribution to the loss of rainforest is a case in point – the Amazon lost as much as 3,465 square miles of forest due to fires last year – triggering widespread international outrage over the lax environment policies that allowed all of this to happen. Its large commercial cattle herd is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil’s challenge is to make its model of agricultural development more environment-friendly.
Paradoxically, when the number of people suffering from undernourishment or hunger has risen in the world, so, too, have those afflicted by overweight and obesity. Latin America’s second largest economy, Mexico, for instance, is currently battling one of the world’s largest epidemics of obesity and its success is bound to be emulated by countries of the South. The numbers involved are staggering. The director-general of the National Institute of Public Health, Dr Juan Rivera told the Financial Times that “seventy five percent of adults and 35 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese… The State has a duty to protect public health.”
The Mutwales farm a small plot of land in the camp, growing primarily cassava and maize for food. They are also one of the 105 refugee farming families participating in an initiative during the 2019/2020 growing season to help them cultivate nutritious, vitamin A-biofortified orange maize, which was developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT
) in partnership with HarvestPlus.
Hillol Datta, 26, travelled for two days from Kolkata to Jampui Hills – a picturesque hill station in the north eastern province of India – to see its fruit-laden orange orchards. However, after driving for several hours, all the young traveller saw were bald patches along the hill slopes and scattered rows of areca (nut) palm trees.
In Aboke, Uganda, a modest restaurant serves locals breakfast, lunch and dinner. Carol Agoa isn’t just the owner and cook, she also supplies all of the food for her restaurant.
Africa needs to invest in agriculture by putting more resources into innovative research and development that can boost food and nutritional security, according to leading scientist, Nteranya Sanginga.
Piles and piles of rotting vegetables at food markets situated right in Zimbabwe's central business district would elsewhere be viewed as a sign of plenty.
But this Southern African nation has not been spared the irony of food wastage at a time of food shortages.
Vandana Shiva, a pioneer of organic farming in India, is incensed by the 2019 draft law to compulsorily register all seeds used by farmers. On a wintry afternoon, at her farm Navdanya in the Himalayan foothills, the noted ecologist spoke on the future of the organic farming movement in India. Excerpts:
It is early Saturday morning and Planeta Hatuleke, a small scale farmer of Pemba District in Southern Zambia, awakens to the comforting sound of rainfall. As the locals say, the “heavens have opened” and it is raining heavily after a prolonged dry spell.