Mitigation strategies to reduce the COVID-19 outbreak has lead to a negative impact in food production, sale and imports on the African continent. Informal markets largely run by women faced and continue to face an acute disruption in their supply chains. FAO already notes that half of Africa’s population is threatened by food insecurity with over 250 million people considered to be severely food insecure. This leaves a strong need to prioritize enhancing sustainable food systems through adoption and implementation of sustainable food systems on the continent.
Speaking to the Dr Tilahun Amede, head of Resilience, Climate & Soil Fertility at Alliance for a Green Evolution in Africa (AGRA) noted that there are various challenges affecting sustainable food systems beyond the impediments faced by COVID-19. Africa is diverse with variances in its climate, resources, governance and cultures, each food system must be looked into with the dominant farming systems that preside: namely the Highland Perennial, Maize-Mixed, Cereal Root and Tuber Crops, Agropastoral, and Highland Mixed Farming Systems, which have distinct system constraints and requiring context-specific solutions.
The technical team noted that there are broad positive and negative trends have been shaping the continent’s food systems: population, food insecurity and poverty are growing, while the natural resource base is under severe threat of degradation. This is compounded by climate change, which is forecasted to have some of its most severe impacts in Local conflicts also have been disrupting positive development. As a result, household vulnerability to climate and market risks are increasing, while access to technology, markets, and inputs are often very limiting. Simultaneously, an expanding array of options in science and technology, institutions and policy have emerged.
Some countries in Africa have undergone positive policy reforms in terms of liberalization of trade and markets, strengthening of institutions with investments in rural infrastructure (e.g. roads) and human and social capital. As a result of both, the internal and external drivers behind these trends, African food systems are evolving dynamically.
As such, AGRA sees five main strategies to improve farm household food security of the continent particularly in the era of climate change.
- Sustainable intensification of existing production pattern through context-specific technologies and practices, addressing both productivity and ecosystem services;
- Diversification of African production and processing systems, including its landscapes
- Increasing agricultural land in countries where there is still high potential farming opportunity;
- diversifying livelihood options; increased off-farm income, both agricultural and non-agricultural; and
- Improved rural-urban linkages that may allow the youth exit from agricultural production within a particular farming system to the industrial and service sector.
Conclusively, the uptake of innovative and inclusive approaches with building the informal market in mind can lead to cementing sustainable food systems in the continent.