How Africa can help feed the world’s 9 billion in 2050

How Africa can help feed the world’s 9 billion people in 2050

With the global population expected to increase to over 9 billion people in 2050, experts have been predicting dire food situations. In Africa, in particular, the population is projected to go from being home to 15 percent of the world population today to 25 percent in 2050.

However, it is also Africa that offers major solutions in feeding the world. While there’s no silver bullet to providing food for all, here are some examples of what can be (and is being) done to improve food production and distribution in Africa:

1. While other regions have reached the limits to agricultural yield per hectare of land, Africa can substantially increase yields with currently available technology.

In certain parts of Africa, farmer yields remain as low as 1-1.5 tons per hectare, compared to potential yields of 3.5 tons per hectare in other regions of the world. That current underperformance translates into future opportunity.

Some companies are recognizing African farmers’ potential, including IGD member Seed Co., Africa’s largest proprietary seed breeding, production, processing and distribution group. Seed Co. is a founder of the Last Mile Alliance, an innovative model that brings together commercial partners (providers of high-quality farm inputs, financial services and insurance), existing agro-dealers, foundations and donors to create a cost-effective rural distribution network to reach smallholder farmers in Tanzania, delivering both commercial success and development impact at scale.

2. A lot of the added food needed to feed an expanding population already exists — we just need to reduce food spoilage and waste, and Africa is no exception.

More than 30 percent of all food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, and saving just a quarter of that food would allow us to feed an added 870 million hungry people. Where in the value chain is food wasted? In medium- and high-income countries, quality standards that over-emphasize food’s appearance and consumer decisions to buy more food contribute heavily to massive food waste. In contrast, food loss in Africa occurs almost entirely in the production and distribution stages, leading experts to call for investment in infrastructure, transportation, packaging facilities and processing in the developing world to fight food loss.

Through the IGD-Rockefeller Post-Harvest Loss Project, IGD has engaged more than 45 companies in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria to identify scalable, market-led solutions to reduce waste and spoilage in several value chains. For example, the Dutch Agriculture Development & Trading Co., a private company established in 2002 to drive poverty alleviation via business methods, is currently tackling the issue of food spoilage. Through its autonomous mobile processing units, DADTCO brings processing directly to cassava farmers in Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria, circumventing spoilage issues that arise during transportation of cassava to traditional processing plants.

3. Compared to other global regions, Africa’s potential for sheer expansion of cultivated land is huge.

Some 60 percent of Earth’s uncultivated land is located in Africa. That translates into 600 million hectares. While not all potential farmland should be converted given environmental and commercial considerations, the opportunity for sustainable expansion does exist. As the efficiency of land use increases through yields, less land will be needed for farms in the future.

While analysts are concerned about global population growth, signs of progress in food security persist. In Africa, with continued efforts in increasing yields, reducing waste and efficiently using land, the continent’s agricultural potential will be part of the solution to feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

Source: Jessica Ernst, July 2014.

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The right policies for African Agriculture

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The right policies for African Agriculture.

The majority of farmers in Africa are smallholders, farming less than 2 hectares. While Dobie recognizes such farming systems can be extremely productive (and that presently a large proportion of Africa’s food comes from smallholders) the fact remains that 23 per cent of Africans are undernourished and much of this is due to poor agricultural output. What are needed are broad-based policies that tackle poverty among smallholders now, and prepare the way for a transformation of African agriculture for the future, says Dobie.

Climate change is predicted to have a drastic impact on food production, especially in Africa, making it even more difficult for smallholder farmers to sustain their livelihoods through agriculture. Increasing the efficiency of large-scale land use should provide the investment which is needed to adapt to climate change, argues Dobie.

What is needed in Africa are a range of improvements to many aspects of crop production at once. For example: technologies that improve soil fertility such as fertilizer trees; secure rights to use land so that farmers are motivated to make long-term investments in land management or cash-in and find other ways of earning a living; and better access by farmers to credit and insurance that will encourage investment and reduce risks.

The way agriculture fits within the entire ecological system must also be considered. Farming co-exists alongside a range of different land uses – trees that control the supply of water, grasslands upon which livestock depend, insects that pollinate crops – that all affect production. Policy makers need to take account of this mosaic and the multiple benefits of landscapes.

“Policy makers in Africa have an important role in enabling a transformation of agriculture,” says Dobie. “They need to develop policies that increase production, incomes and food security for smallholders while encouraging farming to evolve from its smallholder base into larger farms.” This, he says, can be achieved through diversification of agriculture on the continent, planting more high-value crops, value adding through local processing and the adoption of new technologies.

Getting policymakers to understand the need for improving entire crop production and marketing systems is a major challenge. Dobie advocates for taking agricultural development out of its exclusive agricultural silo and bringing in policy makers and practitioners from other sectors such as finance, water resources, transport, infrastructure and banking.

“There is no single policy for agriculture in Africa,” concludes Dobie. “It will take a range of mutually reinforcing policies across a number of sectors to lead us towards agriculture that is truly climate-smart.

Source: Kate Langford.

Radio show helps Tanzanian farmers fight climate change

Radio show helps Tanzanian farmers fight climate change

KILIMANJARO, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As thousands of farmers in northeastern Tanzania grapple with long spells of dry weather and erratic rainfall, a Canadian charity has collaborated with local partners on a radio programme to help onion and rice growers adapt to the effects of climate change.

Farm Radio International and private radio station MoshiFM started the show, tailored to help farmers in remote Ruvu village and the surrounding areas of Same district find ways to maintain their harvests and seek better markets for their produce.

Launched last year, Heka-Heka Vijijini (which means “upbeat mood in the village” in Kiswahili) airs twice a week for one hour, teaching farmers to embrace crop diversification and irrigation to boost soil fertility.

With the help of local agricultural extension officers, the programme advises its audience on suitable planting times, as well as giving them up-to-date weather information and tips on how to increase their crop yields in the face of challenging weather.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, Gloria Meena sits down to listen in with other villagers in Ruvu.

“I have found the programmes very useful because they teach good farming methods and how farmers can deal with floods as well as adapting to the changing climate,” she said.
The 53-year-old widow said the weather in her region has been unpredictable for the past eight years. She recalls losing an entire hectare of onions three years ago after heavy rainfall pounded the village, which nestles among hills, causing floods that swept away everything she had planted and dealing a sharp blow to her income.

“Before I started tuning (in) to the programme, I did not know how to prevent soil erosion, which is a big problem here, but now I know how to protect my farm,” said Paulina Ndauka, another of Ruvu’s farmers.

PLATFORM FOR AG OFFICERS
MoshiFM programme manager Yusuph Masanja said Heka-Heka Vijijini targets more than 7,000 farmers, most of whom depend on agriculture for a living, and aims to promote effective onion and rice growing while responding to the challenges posed by climate change.

“We are happy to see that the farmers have been very responsive to this initiative,” he said.
Masanja said the radio programme has simplified the work of agricultural extension officers, who can now communicate with farmers via the airwaves, since it is not easy for them to visit people on an individual basis.

“Extension officers are few … so we give them a platform to talk to the farmers and put their messages across,” he said.
Onesmo Mbaga, an onion farmer in Ruvu, said the programme had taught him how to store water in a reservoir to use in the dry season.

“Onion seedlings don’t need a lot of water to grow,” Mbaga said. “I have set up a reservoir with the help of village leadership which supplies water to the farm.”
“The radio programme makes it easy to get the needed help from extension officers, especially on how to deal with soil exhaustion,” he added.

STEMMING PRODUCTION DECLINES
Erratic rainfall patterns, coupled with increasingly frequent droughts, pose a growing threat to the livelihood and security of thousands of people in Tanzania’s rural communities.

Scientists suggest that simple adaptation techniques such as changing planting dates and crop varieties could greatly help smallholder farmers reduce climate-related risks.
Ruvu ward official Dawson Maine said the radio programme has helped farmers increase production, which had been dwindling in recent years.

“We are now monitoring closely about 400 hectares (990 acres) of onions which have been placed under irrigation schemes, and (we) render necessary assistance to the farmers,” Maine said. “The farmers are responding very well to many problems that affect their lives.”

Ruvu ward has a population of 12,820. Until the onset of more extreme weather, it used to be the main supplier of onions and rice in northern Tanzania, attracting traders from Moshi, Arusha and Nairobi.

“Peasant farmers need to adapt to weather-related challenges which have had an impact on their incomes due to reduced crop yields,” said Henry Laswai, an agricultural researcher at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro. “As a result (of these challenges) they are being pushed into extreme poverty.”

An onion trader in Same district said that, despite the weather challenges, onion growing is still a booming business. A single hectare of onions can generate about 600 kg of produce, worth 600,000-1.2 million Tanzanian shillings (about $370-740).

Canada-based Farm Radio International helps more than 250 radio stations in 35 African countries to reach farmers. In Tanzania, the organisation has developed programmes for radio stations in several regions, tailored to the needs of local farmers.

Kizito Makoye is a journalist based in Dar es Salaam, where he specialises in climate change reporting, as well as governance and women’s issues.

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation