By Emmanuel Ntirenganya
As urbanisation rises in Africa, achieving food security and nutrition for all will depend on interventions that transform urban–rural linkages, the Africa Agriculture Status Report, has indicated.
The report was launched on September 8, at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit.
It indicated that cities shape Africa’s agribusiness environment by affecting patterns of agricultural production and bringing about the rapid expansion of food processing and distribution plans.
According to the United Nations, Africa is the world’s fastest urbanising region with an urban population of 472 million people that is projected to double over the next 25 years.
This increase in urban citizens greatly contributes to an increase in demand for basic staple foods at a rate of 4.8 per cent per year.
The report seeks to find ways for smallholder farmers to drive food security, rural prosperity, and inclusive economic growth.
It outlined the opportunities provided by Africa’s urban food markets to the continent’s 60 million farms.
“This year’s report shows that as the centre of gravity in Africa’s agri-food systems shifts increasingly towards urban areas, a cohort of new, non-traditional actors – including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organisations and public health professionals – are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy,” said Andrew Cox, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’s Chief of Staff and Strategy.
Challenges and how to address them
In their efforts to supply growing urban food markets, Africa’s farmers, agro-industries, and policy makers face multiple challenges, the report indicated.
It said that farmers must simultaneously diversify production to meet shifting demand for high-value perishables such as poultry, dairy, livestock, and horticultural products.
In the face of mounting food imports from overseas, the report recommended that African farmers, traders, and wholesalers must find ways to drive down domestic costs of production, storage, and distribution in order to remain competitive with external suppliers in Brazil, North America, Europe, and Asia.
Agribusiness firms anticipate continued growth in demand for processed and prepared foods. Yet they, too, must ensure food quality, food safety and competitive prices to out-compete global agribusiness giants.
Growing urban food markets imply longer supply lines, expanded wholesale and retail distribution systems, increased warehousing, cold storage, food preservation, processing, and packaging.
According to the report, policy makers, too, must adapt to ensure availability of key public goods, policies, and infrastructure required for African farmers to successfully compete in growing urban food markets and at the same time ensure food safety and public health of urban consumers.
While recognising the debilitating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its role in exacerbating existing economic and social inequalities, the report defines five focus areas in a bid to overcome the problem of urban under-nutrition and accelerate the urgency of urban food system planning.
Such areas are improved urban food system governance; efficient urban wholesale markets; food safety regulation and enforcement; regional free trade and agricultural policy harmonisation; and agricultural research focused on high-growth, high-value food commodities.
The threats to food security on the continent
Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chair of AGRA and the AGRF Partners Group said that Africa’s food systems continue to be exposed to multiple shocks, including the desert locusts, the fall armyworms, and climate change which are causing crop damages.
“The fall armyworm (FAW) is stressing our food systems. Left unchecked, this worm can threaten the food security of more than 300 million Africans,” he said.
“It is, therefore, important that we work together to build resilient systems that will enable us to absorb [such] chocks, and prosper together,” he said.
Culled from New Times.