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Food security in Africa

The Kofi Annan Foundation promotes reforms in Africa enabling the continent to really tap into the vast resources and fertile lands available. Fabian Lange, associate research officer at the Kofi Annan Foundation explains the central role of climate-smart agriculture and smallholder farmers in the quest of ending hunger.


 

Q: Fabian, why do we say that Africa has the potential to become the breadbasket of the world?

A: First, Africa is blessed with about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Second, African agricultural productivity at present is less than a third of its potential because farmers lack access to high-yielding seeds, fertilizer, credit and insurance, adequate technology, and markets to sell their surpluses. Insufficient investment in infrastructure, mechanization, and irrigation, limited investment in agricultural research, and inadequate policy and regulatory frameworks restrain Africa from capitalizing on its full potential to become the breadbasket of the world.

Q: One hears a lot about climate-smart agriculture these days, what does it actually mean? 

Climate-smart agriculture refers to technologies, policies, and practices which can sustainably increase agricultural productivity while mitigating the carbon emissions associated with the sector. If implemented in the right way and at the right scale, climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices such as the use of drought- and heat-tolerant crops, and improved irrigation systems, enable farmers to adapt to changing weather patterns and growing seasons that threaten food production and can contribute to global food and nutrition security.

Q: Is there a role and future for smallholder farmers?

Yes!  Smallholder farmers, who usually cultivate less than two hectares of land, account for the vast majority of farms worldwide, and especially in Africa. With adequate technology, financial resources and market access, they can be at the heart of a green revolution transforming Africa from a food importer to a continent that can feed itself and export to other parts of the world. They must be at the core of all our efforts, but there is also a role for commercial farms and large firms which can help smallholders produce surpluses and grow their fledgling businesses.

Q: What is the Kofi Annan Foundation doing to tackle food and nutrition insecurity?

The Kofi Annan Foundation convenes high-level decision-makers from politics, business, civil society and regional organisations such as the African Union, to develop joint approaches to agricultural reform, and plan the next steps. A summary of one of these meetings, held in Addis Ababa in 2013, can be found here. To expedite reforms and decisions, Kofi Annan personally advocates both publicly and privately in support of climate smart agriculture and in support of unlocking Africa’s vast potential.

Photo credit: CIAT