Pan-African approach to address food insecurity due to conflict and climate shocks


Pan-African initiatives to boost food production and research and development could boost farm yields on the continent. Credit: Joyce Chimbi/IPS
  • by Joyce Chimbi (nairobi)
  • Inter Press Service

Of the 24 countries identified as hunger hotspots by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program in 2022, 16 will be in Africa. The continent accounts for 62 percent of the total number of food-insecure countries in hotspot countries.

“Climate shocks have had a major impact on Africa’s fragile food chain over time. The worst drought in the Horn of Africa in decades continues, floods in West Africa and severe cyclones in Madagascar and Mozambique. Climate change will contribute to a decline in African agricultural yields, which are already very low, by 5 to 17 percent by 2050,” said Hafez Ghanem, former regional vice president of the World Bank Group and a current non-resident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution.

External factors – the disruption of food systems due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting reduced purchasing power, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led to a rise in world food, fuel and fertilizer prices – coupled with drastic weather changes, and continuation or intensification of conflict and insecurity have endangered an already fragile food chain.

Ghanem says conflict and climate change are Africa’s most pressing challenges as they create conditions for food insecurity, exacerbate food insecurity and make it difficult for the continent to put food on the table. Growing food insecurity, in turn, is a catalyst for conflict.

One in five, or an estimated 140 million people, in Africa faces acute food insecurity. The situation is even worse in conflict-affected countries and regions, including the Horn of Africa, Northern Nigeria, Eastern DRC and the Sahel region.

According to FAO and WFP, three countries – DRC, Ethiopia and Nigeria – are responsible for more than 56 percent of food insecurity in Africa.

“The three countries have two characteristics in common: conflict and vulnerability to climate change. This situation is exacerbated by external factors such as the war in Ukraine, global inflation and rising fuel prices,” he notes.

FAO research shows that Ethiopia, as a net importer of food and fuel, is particularly affected by high international prices. Food price inflation averaged 40 percent in the first half of 2022.

The onset of flooding in 27 Nigerian states earlier in February 2022 has damaged 450,000 hectares of farmland, seriously affecting the 2022 harvest, according to joint reports from the FAO and WFP. Flooding has also disrupted agriculture in South Sudan.

Ghanem says these climate shocks following the locust plague of 2019-2020, which affected 1.25 million hectares of land in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, have had significant negative impacts on food security in the region. Political instability and conflicts in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia have exacerbated the situation.

He says that in the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – food insecurity has increased by 50 percent from 2021. A reflection, he says, “of the sharp rise in political instability and conflict in Mali, Chad , Burkina Faso and rising world prices for food, fuel and fertilizer.

Ghanem is urging political leaders and civil society to address the root causes of conflict and instability, saying the solution is to address the social, political and economic exclusion of large segments of the population. He says that all people should feel invested in their own country.

Against this background, he argues for pan-African initiatives to stimulate food production. “African agriculture produces the lowest yields in the world. Africa has the least percentage of irrigated land and uses the least fertilizer per hectare. The continent also invests the least in research and development.”

In the absence of up-to-date research to produce innovative approaches to meet the challenges agriculture faces today and without the use of high-quality fertilizers, certified seeds and new and more climate-resistant varieties of seeds, he says the continent will be difficult. pressured to overcome growing food insecurity.

“Despite these challenges, I am optimistic that pan-African initiatives and joint projects are viable to address these gaps, including establishing four or five agricultural research centers on the continent, joint irrigation projects and building fertilizer-producing companies,” he said. from.

“Africa imports about 60 percent of all fertilizer use, making it very expensive for our farmers, leading to low fertilizer use. We already have large fertilizer producing companies including Dangote in Nigeria and OCP in Morocco. The continent can work with such African fertilizer producers to establish more fertilizer factories on the continent.”

He emphasizes that Africa is ripe for opportunities for inter-African cooperation and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, which all 54 countries on the continent have signed, will accelerate the free movement of goods and services and pan-African investment projects in agriculture.

By advocating for a pan-African approach to tackling food insecurity, Ghanem says, alongside open markets and free trade, this would be an opportunity to foster regional investment in infrastructure across multiple countries, which would in turn boost agricultural productivity and resilience would improve on climate change.

Furthermore, he sees such an approach as an opportunity to establish an African council to coordinate and encourage research and development in agriculture. Equally important, a pan-African approach could support a facility to ensure that vulnerable African countries can finance food imports in times of crisis.

Backed by its vast natural and human capital resources, he says a unified vision for Africa will help develop Africa’s breadbaskets and create a future of food security for all. For more on this topic, see Ghanem’s paper here.

IPS Report of the UN Office

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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