Africa Needs More Action, Fewer Words to Secure Food and Nutrition
By Busani Bafana
Ritta Achevih was barely able to feed her family, but now the Kenyan farmer has changed her fortunes by adopting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) approaches that improve soil health and productivity by protecting the soil from degradation. Credit. Busani Bafana/IPS
For more than five years, Ritta Achevih was harvesting one bag of maize or less from her small plot each season. She could hardly provide enough healthy food for her big family.
The culprit for her growing poor maize yields was the exhausted soil on her one-hectare plot she continuously tilled on the edge of biodiversity-rich Kakamega Forest in northwestern Kenya. Farmers have cut down trees to make way for more land near the forest leading to massive land degradation.
But Achevih (65) from Vihiga Country has transformed her farming and harvested eight bags of maize last season. This is thanks to adopting the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) approaches that improve soil health and productivity by protecting the soil from degradation using manure. In addition, SLM promotes intercropping of maize and legumes and growing indigenous leafy vegetables.
“Changing how I managed my land has changed my yields. My livelihood has improved because I have enough and different types of food to eat,” Achevih told IPS on the sidelines of the Alliance for a Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
“I grow maize, beans, and indigenous vegetables which have helped my family to have enough healthy food. The indigenous vegetables have increased my family income because of the high yields,” said Achevih adding that she now enjoys varied meals daily.
“I have more food to choose from now than before. I can have bananas or millet porridge in the morning and ugali (maize dish) with indigenous vegetables for lunch and in the evening enjoy potatoes,” she quipped.
“My farming method is better, but farmers need training and support to produce more food, have more markets and earn better income.”
Achevih contributes to food security for her family and community. She could do better with access to improved technology, know-how, and inputs to boost food and nutrition security on the back of growing threats to agriculture in Africa.
Another farmer, Wellington Salano from Kakamega County, says the government needs to fulfill its commitments to agriculture development in Africa by investing more in the sector to help beat poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
“African leaders should give a bigger portion of their budgets to agriculture because it is the source of our food and livelihoods, Salano told IPS. “Farming is life and cannot ensure healthy food without the investment to increase the production of farmers at a time we have to deal with climate change and shortage of food.”
Salano (65) grows maize, beans, and indigenous vegetables in Kakamega country in northwest Kenya. He practices sustainable land management and sustainable forest management under a project started by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). The project seeks to enhance the sustainable management of the Kakamega Forest, which has been affected by deforestation due to illegal encroachment to harvest firewood, timber, and herbs and the conversion to pasture, leading to extreme biodiversity loss.
How to feed and nourish Africa?
How Africa can successfully navigate the crises currently affecting the global food supply chain and ensure that African Governments can mobilize investment and accelerate commitments to deliver a food-secure continent dominated discussions at the annual AGRF Summit.
Viable solutions are needed to boost sustainable crop production on the continent, where one in five people faced hunger in 2020. Worse, Africa remains a net food importer, spending nearly $50 billion on food imports.
“We should stop exporting these jobs when we can produce this food,” AGRA President Agnes Kalibata warned. “The current African food systems are failing to deliver healthy diets to all and are one of the greatest challenges for climate and environmental sustainability.”
Currently, about 57.9 percent of the people in Africa are under-nourished, according to the recent report, State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, which also projects that hunger could increase, making Africa the region with the largest number of undernourished people.
Leadership for food and nutrition
In 2021, African leaders agreed on a common position ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit to ensure that Africa was more resilient to unexpected global shocks. However, the continent is off track to achieving agreed targets under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, the Malabo Declaration, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Leaders noted that the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the global supply chain, and the energy crisis had strained Africa’s food systems.
“We need food systems transformation now,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chair of AGRA and the AGRF Partners Group, remarking that African leaders have committed to supporting food systems transformation, and collective action was needed to accelerate progress and real change.
“No country is healthy unless food and livelihoods are healthy,” noted Dessalegn calling on governments to prioritize and integrate policies that would promote healthy and nutritious diets, decent income for the farmers, and address climate and other challenges to food security.
“Africa’s prosperity depends on translating commitments we have made into implementation,” said Desalegn, underscoring that Africa’s plight requires collective will, voice, and action to transform the agriculture sector radically.
“There is a need to boldly galvanize collective will amongst leaders to emphatically support agricultural transformation.”
This post first appeared on IPS News.