The right strategies What Africa can do to mitigate food insecurity

Climate change has been cited as the major cause of drought in countries across Africa, where food insecurity is increasingly becoming a major cause for concern.
In addition to the climatic and weather phenomenon that are resulting in declining crop yields, other factors – such as poor and deteriorating storage facilities (especially for grains) inadequate food distribution policies, and the high cost of moving food aid in regions with little or no infrastructure – are also worsening the food security situation in Africa.
Agronomist Brian Madzinga adds that, “Food insecurity in Africa is caused by many factors. Among the factors are climate change and an outbreak of pests.
“Poor farming and water conserving methods are contributing heavily to the food security problems facing many African countries.”
This means African countries must urgently deal with issues related to storage and movement of grain, sustainable agricultural practices and control of pests. Without having to spend billions of dollars, much can be done in simple ways to ensure more people have access to food.
Another thing African governments must deal with is the growing trend to invest in cash crops rather than food crops. The revenues from cash crops are rarely invested in buying food, as the money mostly goes to purchasing fertilisers and chemicals so that another cash crop can be put in the ground.
This does not mean we should not grow cash crops. Rather it means land should be set aside for drought-resistant food crops so that a balance is struck.
Madzinga explains: “African governments should encourage farmers to grow short-season varieties considering the fact that climate change is affecting rainfall patterns and distribution throughout the continent.”
This also requires greater investment in developing varieties that are suited to our climatic and geographical conditions, as well as in promoting efficient soil nutrition and water management practices.
Naturally, this means more emphasis being placed on irrigation technologies and infrastructure.
Madzinga believes that empowering famers is Africa’s best bet for development.
“Education plays an important role in informing farmers about risks and ways of achieving increased self-reliance through improved risk management. Environmental education should also be given more prominence in formal education. Therefore, greater government commitment is required across the board,” says Madzinga.

May 2013
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