African states should take a comprehensive approach to make sure that existing technologies get to farmers for increased food production and save millions from possible starvation.
In his address to the on-going virtual high-level dialogue on modernizing food production, making African agriculture more business oriented, and strengthening agriculture value chains, African Development Bank president Dr Akinwumi Adesina said technologies to feed the continent were available.
He called on for technology development and delivery platforms to take technologies off the shelves and make them available for farmers.
Adesina also noted the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on Africa’s food security calling it severe.
“With food price inflation and millions of farmers unable to farm or access services due to the economic lockdowns, tens of millions of Africans now face serious food insecurity.
“Today, 246 million Africans go to bed hungry each day. That includes 59 million children under the age of 5 years old who are malnourished and stunted, and another 14 million who are wasted. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, 30 million people have fallen into poverty.
“Unfortunately, for many in Africa, the risk of dying from hunger is much higher than dying from COVID-19.”
To fully recover from the pandemic, Adesina said, Africa must now rapidly upscale efforts to boost food production.
“Without food medicines don’t work. Without nutrition, vaccines are not effective. We must produce food on less land. We must conserve forests. And we must ensure sustainability and climate resilience,” he said.
Adesina said there was need for technologies that connect global, regional and national agricultural systems.
“One that ensures accountability to delivering results to farmers at scale. And one that connects technologies to the private sector across agricultural value chains.
“That is exactly what has been done by the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), a technology delivery platform supported by the African Development Bank, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IFAD and several partners,” he said.
Launched just two years ago, the TAAT platform has delivered heat tolerant wheat varieties to 1.8 million farmers in seven countries, increasing wheat production by 1.4 million metric tons, with a value of $291 million.
The TAAT platform was deployed when drought hit the Southern Africa region in 2019.
“It deployed drought tolerant maize varieties which were cultivated by 5.2 million households on 841,000 ha. As a result, farmers survived the drought, from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, allowing maize production to expand by 631,000 metric tons of maize, with a value of $107 million,” Adesina said.
According to Adesina, in just two years, TAAT has worked across 28 African countries, on 76 proven agricultural technologies across 15 crops, and reached 11 million farmers.
“Food production has expanded by over 12 million metric tons. And TAAT has saved countries food imports worth $814 million. The achievements to date have been impressive. We must now go to greater scale to feed 1.4 billion people in Africa,” he said.
The AfDB and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organization also pledged to work closely with African leaders to address rising hunger on the continent and shore up adequate financing to transform and modernize Africa’s food production.
“Africa has the potential to feed itself and feed the world,” said IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo. “If we commit today to increasing investments in modernizing agriculture, providing skills, finance and better access to food value chains, agriculture has the potential to become a thriving and successful sector that creates jobs and provides livelihoods for small-scale farmers and rural populations – in particular, for millions of young Africans joining the job market.”
The virtual event brought together government officials, heads of multilateral development banks, development partners, regional organizations, research institutions, business leaders, private sector operators, investment agencies, participants from academia, civil society organizations and experts from across Africa and beyond.
The dialogue is an opportunity to share achievements and lessons from across the African continent and accelerate agricultural transformation.
Across the continent, hunger poses an even greater risk than Covid-19. The number of people living with hunger increased from 214 million to 246 million between 2015 and 2020.
Agricultural and agro-business related activities could provide employment opportunities for millions of young Africans, who account for 70 percent of the population.
The food security summit is also expected to showcase the AfDB’s highly successful TAAT and other development partner success stories.
The virtual dialogues will include heads of state of 18 African countries; Agnès Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food System Summit; Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of the Institute for Global Change; and the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Islamic Development Bank Group, Afreximbank, and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, among others.