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- Will Africa feed herself by 2050? - May 17, 2020
Considering the wide enormity of Africa, Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent after Asia. She has about 30.3 million km² (11.7 million square miles), which covers 20% of the world’s land area. With 1.3 billion people as of 2018, it accounts for about 16% of the world’s human population according to Wikipedia.
It contains 54 fully recognized states (countries), from the rich oil reserves in Libya to the high plains of South Africa containing 90% of all platinum metals on planet earth! Africa is indeed multi-varied in resources.
In order to understand the future prospect of the African continent, it is imperative for us to have an insight into the past:
Over the past 30 years, Africa’s population has doubled overall and tripled in urban areas and by 2050, its population will increase 2.5-fold from 856 million in 2010 to about 2.5billion people in 2050. There will also be a corresponding increase in the demand for cereals which will approximately triple, meaning there are currently many mouths to feed right now, and there will be many more in the coming decades.
Yet cereal production has been unable to keep pace with population growth, for example, in cereal producing countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania farmer’s yield has remained as low as 1-1.5 tons per hectare, compared to potential yields of 3.5 tons and above per hectare as seen in other cereal producing nations such as the United State of America with a record of 8,281kg (9.128 tons) per hectare.
According to researchers in a report published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sub-Saharan Africa currently imports about 20 percent of its cereal needs, and this could rise to at least 50 percent by 2050!
In 1990, less than one undernourished person in five was living in Africa, while today’s figure has risen to over one in four. And by 2050, you can only imagine what will happen if the trends continue like this.
Along with South Asia, Africa is the continent most seriously affected by food insecurity; however the situation varies in different areas.
In North Africa, despite a strong and growing dependency on imported food, food insecurity remains a marginal problem, mainly due to substantial state subsidies covering basic foods in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Southern Africa is also affected to a lesser degree; East Africa is the most severely affected region.
Five countries (Ethiopia, DRC, Tanzania, Sudan, and Kenya), are home to over half the undernourished people living in Sub-Saharan Africa! While it is also a problem in West African countries such as Nigeria, Cameroun, and Chad, the situation has deteriorated further in a smaller number of countries such as Zambia, DRC, Burundi , mainly due to conflicts and the AIDS pandemic according to NEPAD (New partnership for African Development).
Key Facts why Africa should be able to feed herself by 2050:
Arable farm land:
Along with Latin America, Africa is the continent that has the largest surface area of uncultivated arable land. According to FAO, cultivable lands (excluding forest areas) in Africa are three times larger than the land currently cultivated.
Ample water resources:
It is home to an abundance of water resources, for example, the Nile River which runs through 11 countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt) and the Mediterranean Sea bounded by 5 African countries namely Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria.
Also there is abundant rainfall yearly, in most countries in Africa which have an average of less than 1,000 millimeters of rainfall per year.
Rainfall is most abundant on the eastern seaboard of Madagascar; portions of the highlands in eastern Africa; large areas of the Congo Basin and central Africa; and parts of coastal western Africa including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea according to a report written by Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
Large labour force:
Farming is the primary source of food and income for Africans and provides up to 60 percent of all jobs on the continent which means around two-thirds of the African population is employed within the sector, the vast majority working on small-scale farms currently produce around 90% of all output. Furthermore, as a result of this humongous labor force, the problem of workers with regards to attaining food security is limited.
Factors affecting food production in Africa
Poor maximization of water availability and usage:
The limited use of water potential is one of the most important factors affecting food production. To draw a comparison, 6% of Africa’s farmland is irrigated in contrast to 40% in Asia. As a result of this, China and some South-East Asian countries have higher water productivity for rice, ranging from 0.4 to 0.6 kg/m3; as compared to the average of the developed world.
Economically, Poverty Incidences are 20-30 percent less in settings with irrigation compared to those without irrigation. Therefore, optimizing the use of water resources especially with regards to irrigation would lead to increased productivity in Africa and reduction in poverty incidence.
Poor maximization of land:
The availability of land and water resources is not a problem for food security for the African continent by 2050, however failing to maximize the availability of land would lead to greater food insecurity for the continent.
There is a report that noted that Africa has around 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land and this amounts to roughly 60 percent of the global total. This means sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than half of the world’s uncultivated land that can be brought into production which in turn would contribute to food security in Africa and in the world at large.
Poor utilization of manpower:
According to the International Labour Organization (2017), the agricultural sector employs an average of 54% of the working population in Africa. In Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Madagascar, more than 80% of the labor force works in agriculture; this shows to some extent, the labour power Africa owns, however the crude technical skills, and tools leads to reduced productivity in the continent.
The use of crude implements by farmers, especially at the rural level has been known to lower productivity.
For example, According to Mr. Okezie Nwanimi, a farmer from Ihuike in the Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State, in an interview with the TID ORGANIZATION stated that the so-called “crude implements are indispensable to the rural farmer.” However this has brought about less land being cultivated which in turn reduces productivity.
According to NEPAD (2013), Africa has 33 million farms of less than 2 hectares, accounting for 80% of all farms. Given that the farming system mainly relies on the family’s capital and labor force for production, the overall productivity is primarily low.
Pest and disease outbreak:
Tran boundary plant pests and diseases can easily spread to several countries and reach epidemic proportions. Outbreaks and upsurges can cause huge losses to crops and pastures, threatening the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers and the food and nutrition security of millions at a time.
According to Wikipedia Cassava Mosaic Disease was first described in 1894 and is now considered one of the most damaging crop viruses in Africa. Annual economic losses in East and Central Africa are estimated to be between US$1.9 billion and $2.7 billion.
In Early 2020, Desert locusts swarmed into Kenya by the hundreds of millions from Somalia and Ethiopia, where such numbers haven’t been seen in a quarter-century.
The insects are decimating farmland, threatening an already vulnerable region.
According to Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer with the Food and Agriculture Organization, by June, he fears the desert locusts will have increased their numbers 400-fold compared with today, triggering widespread devastation to crops and pastures in a region that’s already extremely vulnerable to famine.
In conclusion, subsistence farmers cannot significantly contribute to food security on a national scale because the pieces of land they have access to are too small (Africa Research Institute 2009). Also the average age of farmers in Africa is 64 years old therefore, there is an urgent need to encourage more youth to take up agriculture as a course of study in higher institutions, as this would have a strong impact of providing the necessary skills that is needed to actively participate in agriculture and in agribusiness today.
So will Africa be self-sufficient by 2050? Well, the answer lies in your hands, in my hands and in the hands of our policy makers.
On the part of the government, there is a need for deliberate but proactive steps especially with regards to governmental policies and investment in the agricultural sector. Agriculture should be given the attention it deserves especially in the area of budget allocation to the sector and funding programs for agribusinesses also funding agricultural research institutes adequately across Africa is imperative.
How would you contribute to the goal of enabling Africa to feed herself by 2050? Do you have money? Invest in agriculture. Do you have land? Begin cultivating. Start something regardless of how small and together we can feed Africa.
If you did read to the end of this article, i sincerely thank you for giving our page your time and it shows that you have a solid interest for the growth and development of Africa. I will like to know what your thoughts are and do you think that Africa will be able to feed herself and then the rest of the world by 2050?
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