Can sustainable development help Africa with rising food insecurity?

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Monday, 11 July 2022 19:21

Astou Mandiang cooks the meal for her family, for the breaking of the Muslim fast during the holy month of Ramadan at her home in Dakar, Senegal April 11, 2022. Picture Taken April 11, 2022. REUTERS/ Ngouda Dione

Food insecurity remains a serious issue on the continent. A climate crisis which heavily impacts Africa's agricultural industry, combined with insecurity in many regions and rising prices, has created a pressure cooker that could explode.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left many African countries no option but to find alternative sources of grain imports.

Despite a dip in prices in recent weeks, Ukraine has warned that Russia has been stealing and then selling grain on the black market, mainly to Syria via countries like Turkey.

This has left many countries across the continent to fend for themselves against rising inflation that has driven many to famine and farmers strained to produce enough grain.

African governments are now focusing on improving agricultural conditions and investing in greater self-sustainability.

Senegal

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has loaned Senegal $123m for emergency food production.

The loan has been the first approved under AfDB’s African Emergency Food Production Facility, which seeks to address the crisis created by the conflict in Ukraine.

The funds are to help small-scale farmers grow 38m tons of corn and other crops over the next two years. Fonio, a grain commonly used in Senegalese cooking, has become a pioneer food to improve food security. The grain takes as little as six weeks to be harvestable, making it an ideal foodstuff for the current climate.

Drought, floods and other environmental factors – combined with persistently high food prices – exacerbated by the current global crisis, have left the country seeking a sustainable solution to food in security.

Tanzania

Business leaders are coming up with other ideas to help food security in Africa. Tanzanian entrepreneur Mohammed Dewji has announced that he plans setting up a large agricultural company worth up to $4bn in New York or London within the next year.

Dewji’s company MeTL Group operates in 11 countries across the continent.

The new company will produce grains and edible oils in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and the Central African Republic, Dewji said.

“This is a fantastic way to bring food security… with the potential to feed ourselves and feed the world,” Dewji told Reuters in an interview in London on Thursday.

The entrepreneur predicts that the company might diversify into soybean and sugar plantations – with money from development banks and roughly 40% via bank loans.

South Africa

In South Africa, some farming unions want a greater voice in face of the country’s struggles with rising fuel and food prices. This is playing out against the background of the role of race in the economy.

Some unions say that the African National Congress government’s focus on “transformation'” is hurting the sector. A 2017 South African treasury document explains: “Broad-based transformation should promote growth, mobilise investment, create jobs and empower citizens. It must create new resources to support social change, including assets and livelihoods for the majority, and strengthen South Africa’s constitutional foundations.”

A group of farming organisations in the country, including the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TLU SA) and the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI), have expressed their dissatisfaction with a recently signed Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP), designed to reinvigorate the country’s industry.

In a statement, TLU SA stated their wish for a new plan which gives a bigger role to South African farmers.

They said: “Farmers feel that profitability, sustainability and efficiency of agriculture are more important than transformation and believe that their subordination to transformation is precisely the cause of the collapse of state-owned enterprises, public health and so many municipalities.”

The AAMP’s priorities include “to increase food security, production, jobs, dignity and inclusivity” and “to promote local production, import substitution and the expansion of processed agricultural products”.

Christo van der Rheede, executive director of Agri SA, argues TLU and the SAAI are making a huge mistake because it is necessary to support Black farmers and agro-processors. He said: “The master plan also seeks to ensure that even farmworkers benefit from it, so it does address all that.”

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