Investing In Science Can Help Put Food On Africas Plates

TheFood famines, starvation, starvation and long-term food security are not new issues in Africa , nor elsewhere in the developing world. Food security means that all people, at all days, have both physical and economic access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

The most recent figures suggest that food security is far from a reality in Africa. 23% of the continents population some 233 million people, most of them young face dire thirst every day. This number also represents more than a quarter of the global figure for people who live with thirst bordering on starvation.

The geographical distribution of the crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is uneven. Countries whose environmental conditions are least suitable for agriculture are severely at risk. So are those that have been subjected to prolonged periods of warfare or internal social conflict and poor governance. In more recent years, the broad impacts of global climate change and the prolonged effect of the present El Nio phenomenon have intensified the problem.

Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola and Mozambique are all at risk. South Africa will, in 2016, possibly cull some 800 000 head of cattle and import at least 300 000 tonnes of maize. As a result, this old topic has become increasingly important in current research and development.

Its clear that economic growth is necessary to make progress in reducing poverty and thirst. But scientists have pointed out that economic growth alone wont objective thirst. Good policies and programmes are needed too. Scientists and researchers have a role to play in these initiatives. After all, substantial and dependable scientific knowledge is needed to implement any successful programmes.

Africas particular challenges

This understanding of sciences value in food security debates prompted South Africas National Science and Technology Forum to host a Discussion Forum on Pulses and Food Security in June 2016.

The meetings preliminary findings make a critical point: food is a necessity, but its also a product.

In other terms, it must generate a profit for the points in the food chain farmers/ growers, transporters, processors, storers and sellers. Its the profit at these points in the chain that keeps the chain working and moving.

Farmers may decide not to put low value harvests into the chain because this lowers profits. That leads to waste at the point of source. This situation may also mean that if render and demand arent in kilter or prices are too high, people wont buy particular food products. So theres garbage again, or what appears to be a surplus. Theres more food than can be purchased or can be afforded. Overcoming this requires marketplace adjustments all along the furnish chain.

This is not a uniquely African challenge. Its a global problem. The world produces more food than paying customers actually need, resulting in substantial garbage. Meanwhile hunger and starvation remain endemic, primarily in the worlds developing regions.

Research conducted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and private sector companies in the agricultural sector shows that there are five critical challenges to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. These are 😛 TAGEND

Critical inputs farmers at all scales of production require high-yielding seeds, effective fertiliser and sufficient water to make a successful harvest. This doesnt always happen, and there are also problems with coordination between farmers and markets.

Access to financing for smallholders especially credit is often inaccessible or unaffordable. This is something that leaves farmers much more vulnerable to marketplace volatility and unpredictable weather.

Property rights in many parts of Africa, farmers are unable to own their land and pledge it as collateral. This restriction their incentive to reinvest in their businesses.

Infrastructure for market access farmers generally can earn higher costs outside of harvest season. Yet few African smallholders have access to proper storage to take advantage of price fluctuations. Many also live in isolated, rural areas where a lack of paved roads, dependable energy, warehouses and cold storage put food security at risk and increase post-harvest loss.

Off-farm income this is critically important to agricultural developing. The first migrants from farms to cities often send fund back to their relatives. Those remittances can money better farm inputs seed, fertiliser and machinery, for example. In addition, farmers and farm outputs benefit if urban employees have incomes sufficient to purchase food at costs that is conducive to farmers to render more.

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