Researchers estimate that 40% of the soil in Africa is infertile or unproductive. This means that a large portion of land on the continent is not suitable for farming. With a rapidly increasing population and water shortages on the rise, African farmers will need to work hard to provide food for the continent.
This was a major topic of discussion at the recent Africa Climate Resilience Investment Summit (ACRIS) that was held in Johannesburg in March 2019. ACRIS hosted a panel of experts that was chaired by the director of environmental and natural resources at the World Bank Group, Benoit Bosquet.
This panel led discussions around the climate, agriculture, food waste, sustainability and natural resources. “Africa’s natural resource base – land and water – remains the livelihood for the majority of the continent’s inhabitants, but land and water are the places where climate change is visible, and its effect is felt through droughts, floods, the loss of arable land, disease, poverty and loss of food security and the destruction of families,” says Bosquet.
“Most African countries rely on agriculture and irrigation through rainfall. This is low water efficiency and one of many issues that require us to identify what the problem is and then find a good solution that is climate resilient,” says Islam Sabry Al Zayed, researcher and senior technical officer of the National Water Research Centre.
Climate change affects agriculture
Climate change has severe effects on the agricultural industry. While some regions of Africa may be experiencing harsh drought, others are being flooded by abnormal rainfall. This uncertainty and unpredictability of rainfall mean that farmers cannot plan adequately for the future.
“If the core of resilience is infrastructure that is planned and implemented responsibly, then we need to do so in the case of water as we will need infrastructure to store and transport water to people when there is none,” says Leonard Magara, projects director at the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility.
By addressing water infrastructure now, the continent can create a more sustainable agricultural industry for the future. This will also ensure better food security, less food waste (from inadequate crops) and a more resilient farming industry.
Africa needs to focus on long-term sustainability
Panelists at the ACRIS summit agreed that the recent water shortages in Cape Town should be proof that our approach to climate change and sustainability needs to change. “Our mindset has to change from short-term gains to long-term sustainability. Governments’ mindset must move beyond short-term profit when approaching projects, such as mines, to the long-term implications,” says Dr Mamphela Ramphele, panelist and notable South African politician.
Africans need to shift away from the mindset of extracting from nature and focus on how to nurture it for the good of the population. By looking after farmers and the food security of the continent, governments will be able to reduce food waste and create a sustainable future for all.
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