By Sharon Atieno
As African governments grapple with the current food crisis, there is danger of the situation worsening due to climate change, a new report reveals.
“Rising temperatures, erratic weather, changes to rainfall patterns and an increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will negatively impact food production across most of the continent,” the report titled: Food sovereignity is Africa’s only solution to climate chaos reads.
“The overdependence on rain-fed farming and pastoral livestock systems will be highly affected by rainfall variability and heat waves due to climate change.”
Moreover, scientists predict that climate change will cause shorter growing seasons, reduced soil fertility, new pest and disease pressures, lower crop yields and animal productivity and a reduction in farming and grazing lands over large parts of Africa.
They are also in agreement that food production will be more frequently and adversely affected by extreme weather events as experienced in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe which were affected by floods and cyclones or drought which began in Somalia and Somaliland in June this year.
The food situation is so dire that the United Nations predicts that Africa may only produce just 13 percent of its food needs by 2050. This ultimately means that in order for Africa to feed its population and cover the deficit, it will have to resort to food imports.
Currently, Africa imports food worth USD 35 billion annually, a figure which the African Development Bank projects will triple between now and 2025, if no action is taken.
The report by Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN) urges that there is need for complementary actions within and without Africa to increase Africa’s capacity to feed its population.
The report recommends several actions, among them is the reduction of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the main polluting countries through the use of agroecological production such as organic farming, diversified crop rotations, biological pest control, extensive agro-pastoral systems and agroforestry as opposed to industrialized production.
The report adds that there is need for African governments to implement initiatives and policies which are geared towards boosting food production such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). This will result in protecting local production from the dumping of cheap imports thus, boosting the morale of local farmers.
Also, trade agreements such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) being signed or negotiated by governments should restrict food imports and protect local food producers.
“Liberalization and corporate privileges should not undermine and pre-empt domestic policies and programmes which could strengthen the small-scale food producers and informal traders and street food sellers who are the main actors in African food systems,” the GRAIN report cautions.
Based on rice experiences from Mali after 2007-2008 and Egypt during the same period, the report notes: “Food self-sufficiency is achieved through government support of local production, not through corporate agribusiness and international trade.”
African governments, the report recommends, need also to invest in traditional food crops which are resilient to climate change such as millet and cassava while boosting African innovative farmer seed systems.
It also recognizes that the climate crisis requires approaches to adaptation that support Africa’s small-scale food producers, not approaches that rely heavily on chemical inputs and seeds sold by multinational companies such as those often described as “climate smart”.