The Russia-Ukraine war has exposed Africa’s dependence on imports and sent food prices soaring. This situation is quite challenging for the 283 million people who must deal with the emerging challenge.
What the war in Ukraine has done is expose Africa’s chronic dependence on food imports.
For instance, wheat imports account for about 90 per cent of Africa’s $4 billion trade with Russia and nearly half of the continent’s $4.5 billion trade with Ukraine. Sanctions imposed on Russia have disrupted grain shipments at a time when global stockpiles are already tight.
In many instances, the victims of war are found far away from the battlefield, and so it is with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For, while the fighting there is causing immeasurable suffering and destruction, it is also threatening a silent catastrophe in Africa.
It is now raising the spectre of starvation on a continent that depends so much on food imports to feed itself.
The good news is that the African Development Bank (AfDB) is galvanising action to boost local food production and tackle climate threats. In response to the threatening scenario, the AfDB and its partners aim to mobilise $1 billion to boost the production of wheat and other crops in Africa.
The bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme is already helping the continent fulfil its enormous potential in the agricultural sector by employing high-impact technologies to boost output.
The goal is to help 40 million farmers increase their harvest of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, rice, soybean and other crops to feed about 200 million people.
Central to these efforts is the need to train farmers in new techniques that increase their resilience to the impact of climate change.
We at the Daily Graphic hold the view that to feed a hungry and rapidly growing continent, farmers need to produce more food with fewer resources, while confronting erratic weather patterns, floods, droughts, the spread of pathogens and the loss of biodiversity.
In truth, Africa’s food crisis has been building for some time. Climate change is disrupting weather patterns and damaging agriculture, not only in Africa but also many parts of the world. This has also been a factor behind rocketing food prices, now at their highest in almost 50 years.
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face the combined challenges of a rapidly changing climate, malnutrition and a growing population. They will need more resilient, productive and nutritious crops if they are to meet this challenge. Such change must happen quickly and at scale.
According to the AfDB, in Africa, climate change could wipe out 15 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030. This means an additional 100 million people forced into poverty by the end of the decade.
The Daily Graphic believes that if ever there was a time to drastically raise food production in Africa, it is now.
Thanks to the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme, an Africa-led initiative launched last year to reverse the continent’s vulnerability to climate change, the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA) and other development partners are already working to bring climate-resilient techniques to small-scale producers who grow most of Africa’s food.
With food prices climbing and supplies disrupted by conflict, Africa needs to use as many climate-resilient solutions as it can, quickly and at scale to stave off the threat of a catastrophic food crisis.
Scientists and experts have already advised that investing in climate adaptation for agriculture is the smartest, most cost-efficient way to guarantee the continent’s food security. There is no time to waste.
Excepting war, climate change is perhaps the biggest threat to global food security. We urgently need long-term, sustainable solutions that allow agriculture to adapt to our warming planet.