Africa has, indeed, the fastest demographic growth in the world. But food security has become a major continent for its self-sufficiency.
Transforming food systems to reduce hunger and poverty in a climate crisis means solving the perplexing equation of a rising population that must be nourished and sustained with diminishing resources.
Africa is home to over 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land, yet it is also the continent with the highest prevalence of hunger. This paradox can be attributed to a number of factors, including climate change, conflict, and poverty. However, agricultural innovation offers a promising pathway to food security for Africa.
According to African Business, Africa is expected to feed an estimated 2.5 billion people by 2050 while simultaneously contending with increasingly adverse growing conditions. Added to the challenge is the fact that hunger regressed to levels not seen since 2005 last year, with almost one in four going underfed.
The brightest minds have devoted decades to squaring this circle through creative and ambitious innovations at the farm, retail, and policy levels that increase both productivity and sustainability.
Smart investments in agricultural innovation can help to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, and improve access to markets. This can lead to higher incomes for farmers, improved nutrition for families, and increased economic growth for the continent.
There are a few examples that could spur investments to propel agricultural innovation in Africa. First, there is the climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Indeed, CSA is an approach to agriculture that helps farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CSA practices include drought-tolerant crops, water conservation techniques, and agroforestry.
Second, there is digital agriculture. Digital technologies such as sensors, drones, and artificial intelligence can be used to improve farm management, increase yields, and reduce costs. For example, farmers can use sensors to monitor soil moisture and crop health, and drones to apply pesticides and fertilizers more precisely.
Third, it is to provide access to financing. Smallholder farmers in Africa often lack access to the financial resources they need to invest in new technologies and improve their productivity. Smart investments can be made in financial institutions that provide loans and other financial services to farmers.
Fourth, there is agricultural research and development (R&D). Indeed, investing in agricultural R&D is essential for developing new crop varieties, farming practices, and technologies that are adapted to African conditions.
A number of organizations are working to support smart investments in agricultural innovation in Africa. These include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the CGIAR Consortium.
These smart investments in agricultural innovation provide very important benefits for the continent: job creation, improved nutrition, and reduced environmental impact. On job creation, the agricultural sector is a major source of employment in Africa. Investing in agricultural innovation can help to create new jobs and reduce poverty.
On improved nutrition, agricultural innovation can lead to increased production of nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This can help to improve the nutritional status of people in Africa.
On reduced environmental impact, agricultural innovation can help to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, for example by reducing pesticide use and improving soil health.
Overall, smart investments in agricultural innovation can have a transformative impact on Africa. By increasing productivity, reducing post-harvest losses, and improving access to markets, agricultural innovation can help to achieve food security, create jobs, improve nutrition, and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.