The sustainable food supply chain plays a crucial role in the success or failure of AfCFTA. As Africa engages in increased trade, sustainable agriculture is essential for ensuring food security, improving resource efficiency, reducing waste, reducing environmental impact, improving product quality and meeting consumer demand for sustainable products.
This year’s AU Summit titled, “Powering trade through AfcFTA”, aims to eliminate barriers to trade in Africa by exciting greater political commitment among member states and gradually eliminating 90 per cent of tariffs on goods, and the reduction of barriers to trade in services aimed at increasing Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035. AfCFTA is the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
To achieve these targets, Africa must be food secure. The state of food security in the continent is worsening, with over 20 per cent of the continent’s population (roughly 257 million people) undernourished.
According to FAO, the decline in agricultural production is caused by the degradation of natural resources, the loss of biodiversity, and the spread of transboundary pests and diseases of plants and animals, some of which are becoming resistant to antimicrobials.
Oxfam posits that worsening climate-fuelled droughts and floods and a global rise in fuel and fertilizers prices have made food unobtainable for millions of people. In 2022 alone, food inflation rose by double digits in all but ten African countries.
The agriculture sector in the region faces collapse due to high cost of production, low/declining yields, low-value addition initiatives, inadequate research and extension, obsolete technology, weak extension support, low-value addition initiatives, food loss and waste occasioned by trade barriers, poor agronomic practices and poor road infrastructure putting at stake the survival of an estimated 700 million people, most of them living in rural areas.
Millions of smallholder farmers, who are vital food producers in the continent, cannot reach markets in neighbouring countries due to poor infrastructure and high intra-African tariffs.
It is estimated that nearly 670 million people will still be undernourished in 2030 – 8 per cent of the world population. The impacts are expected to be dire due to the double tragedy of climate change and overreliance on global supply chains for input and food imports. Beyond its devastating impact on families, malnutrition limits a country’s economic potential, as it decreases the productivity of its people while increasing healthcare costs.
Sustainability in agri-food chains encompasses systems that safeguard and generate economic, social, and environmental outcomes for present and future generations.
In Africa, green revolution advocates like the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the CGIAR System Organization and Bill and Melinda Gates are instrumental in transforming smallholder farming in Africa into sustainable and profitable enterprises.
Through initiatives such as educating farmers in sustainable farming techniques, including crop rotation and integrated pest management, reducing reliance on harmful chemicals, and facilitating farmer-market linkages to ensure fair pricing and reduced food wastage in the supply chain, these organizations assist small-scale farmers in Africa in developing sustainable farming.
A sustainable farming system involves improving the water and nutrient efficiency of crops, replenishing over-extracted nutrients through the application of judicious amounts of fertilizer, and diversifying the farming systems with climate-resilient crops and management practices. Responding to the climate risks, Africa must breed and release varieties of crops that are climate adaptive; early maturing, and drought tolerant like cassava, maize, rice, groundnuts, cowpeas, high iron beans, and b-carotene rich sweet potato that can be scaled.
African governments must put up strategic and urgent measures to enhance the resilience of Africa’s food systems and bolster the ability to deliver on food security and nutrition objectives.
The writer is a Sustainable Supply Chain Management Scholar with Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT).
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