The growth of resilient food systems after Covid is key for Africa

Accra – When it comes to food security, the challenge is not always to produce more; it’s also about quality: producing food that is healthy and stored safely.

About 690 million people go hungry every year. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to add between 83-132 million people to this number, based on socio-economic factors. Even before the pandemic, about half of Africa’s population was food insecure. And much of Africa’s food is of low quality or lost before it even reaches the consumer.

Africa has made great strides over food production over the past decade, although in 2018 it remains a major net food importer of $ 47 billion. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

COVID-19 is not the only challenge. In recent years, Africa has struggled with locust swarms, droughts, floods and conflicts that have reduced livelihoods and brought hunger to many people in the region.

Resilient systems require efficient storage and production processes. Africa needs to invest after COVID-19 in appropriate storage technology that is lacking in most developing countries, causing unnecessary waste and significant loss to their economies.

Restrictions on movement during lock-in also have an effect on commodities such as seeds, fertilizers and agricultural implements, which in turn has led to reduced food production. Many crops were not easily accessible and farmers struggled to get their products to markets. And when the continent’s poor storage facilities contributed to the crisis, it was not from scratch.

COVID-19 showed the fault lines in our food production systems, and it harmed the livelihoods of millions of farmers. Mainland food systems – including production, storage and processing, distribution and transportation, retail and promotion – are dominated by traditional methods that are vulnerable to unexpected crises.

The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), one of the continental frameworks of the African Union under Agenda 2063, calls on African governments to increase investment in agriculture by allocating at least 10% of national budgets stands to achieve agricultural growth rates of at least 6% per annum.

Also in the declaration on food security and nutrition during the Covid-19 pandemic, the African Minister of Agriculture committed himself to introducing measures that reduce food losses after harvest and make more food available in the market.

While countries are now struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic, an action plan is needed to consolidate efforts to address these policies.

Past interventions for Africa have focused on food production by improving crop varieties and yields. But we do not live in normal times. We need to do more than just look at production.

Resilient systems require efficient storage and production processes. Africa needs to invest after COVID-19 in appropriate storage technology that is lacking in most developing countries, causing unnecessary waste and significant loss to their economies.

It is estimated, for example, that 60-70% of the food grains produced in developing countries are stored in the traditional structures, or in the house as threshing. However, most traditional methods of grain storage practices are specific to certain cultures or communities.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 30% of the food is lost every year in the supply chain and this figure could go up to 50% for Africa. In Ghana, the government intends to build silos in different farming communities and offer technologies such as irradiation that will be used to manage, process and store food for future use.

We can increase food security by ensuring that most of what we produce is well preserved and reaches the consumer, instead of being spoiled or dumped.

The world population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050, with Africa contributing more than half of the increase. The availability of food must increase by up to 70% if we want to feed the population. Instead of producing more, however, we can strengthen our supply chain to ensure that we retain most of what we grow to meet the needs of our people.

The main problem in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is not insufficient production levels. A 2011 World Bank report estimates Africa’s grain losses at $ 4 billion – a loss that could feed 1.6 billion people annually.

These losses are due to improper handling of post-crops, including drought, where farmers rely on traditional sun-drying. Using this method can facilitate the growth of the fungi that produce aflatoxin which harms the quality of our food. High aflatoxins are associated with cancer, especially liver cancer which has been widely reported in some African countries and Southeast Asia. Complimentary agronomic practices, rapid and proper drying, sorting and grain processing reduce aflatoxin contamination to some extent.

This year’s World Food Day under the theme ‘Grow, nourish, sustain together’ was a reminder that African governments should strive to build future food systems that provide affordable and healthy diets for all.

To enable Africa to cope with another epidemic, we must begin to set up robust and modernized storage systems, promote food processing and store food reserves to ensure supply and demand stability.

As Africa strives for food security, we must not allow food security to be negotiated for the accessibility of food.

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