African countries need to shift to more drought-resistant crops

A recent report by the climate change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research group says global warming will cause famine in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. CCAFS researchers focused their observations on the tropics and identified the regions with chronically-malnourished populations who are highly dependent on local food supplies. As many African areas are expected to become drier, countries such as South Africa whose agriculture is mainly based on maize farming can shift to more drought resistant crops. Countries such as Niger, however, will not have many options because they are already supporting themselves by very drought resistant crop varieties, such as sorghum and millet. Read more here.

Decline in competitiveness in many sub-Saharan states

As growth in some sub-Saharan countries hits 6% there is still no large-scale African middle class emerging, while China and Brazil reap benefits of resource imports. Declining competitiveness in parts of Africa is beginning to concern economists. Speaking on Summit TV, Frontier Advisory analyst Martyn Davies believes that there is a continuing decline in competitiveness in many sub-Saharan states, and that growth without productivity and competitiveness is not sustainable. Especially, the continent needs to use the comparative advantage it has in agriculture. Read more here.
Business Day

Agroforestry key to climate change

A multifunctional approach of integrating agriculture and forestry will be far more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing food production than the practice of intensifying agriculture and sparing forests, scientists say. Agroforestry, which is the use of trees on farms, enriches the soil to provide the necessary conditions for high quality food production and the trees act as carbon stocks, thus helping mitigate climate change. Malawi is currently leading in integrated farming in sub-Saharan Africa and has intensified its evergreen agriculture. The Greenbelt Initiative is one such project that will help Malawian farmers. Read more here.
Moses Michael Phiri

Women are central to feeding Africa

In developing regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of women are directly involved in agricultural work, but very few gain access to information, training or supplies. Another challenge is how the agricultural work environment affects the health of women. Despite the central role they play in growing much of the region’s food, the conditions they work in leave much to be desired. To address this many organisations, including the Gate Foundation, have sponsored different programmes. It is important to give adequate training, inputs and other supports for female workers on small-scale farms. Read more here.

Agriculture in Africa is set to grow; but continent’s infrastructure curbs food production

Between 1997 and 1999, about 228-million hectares, or just 22%, of sub- Saharan Africa’s arable land was in use. On present estimates, by 2030 that figure will rise to 300-million hectares, or just 28% of the total. There is clearly room for Africa to grow more food. “The big constraint is infrastructure,” says Nick Vink, a professor of agricultural economics at Stellenbosch University. Particularly infrastructure for irrigation and its electricity, in addition to transport costs for foods produced, are the main constraints. In South Africa, for example, cheaper rail transport is monopolised by the mining industry, which makes food more expensive to produce. Read more here.

Innovations to nourish the planet

One billion people go to bed hungry every night–a statistic that seems staggering. Although it may seem easiest to donate money or food aid to sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of people depend on agriculture for their livelihood but still do not get enough to eat, donations do not create permanent solutions. Farmers everywhere, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, need crop variety and new farming techniques that help them handle increasingly erratic weather. Not every innovation is worth investment, and many that deserve attention don’t have access to limited resources. Past attempts failed because they discouraged diversity, depended on chemicals, and ignored women farmers. Read more here.

Food security in Sub-Saharan Africa: options and challenges

Food Security Assessment in ERS annual report indicates that the number of food-insecure people decreased an estimated 7.5 percent from 2009 levels to 882 million in 2010. Although the short-term situation has improved, ERS projections point to deteriorating food security over the next 10 years, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Production shortfalls and subsequent rises in food insecurity due to weather-related events and political disruptions will have high effect in countries such as Cape Verde, Eritrea, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. Read more here.