Averting an African food crisis

It didn’t take long for Russia’s war in Ukraine to have an impact on Africa. Already grappling with runaway inflation and still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, Africa now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize and soy imported from Russia and Ukraine.

Fertilizer price increases of more than 300% are making it increasingly difficult for African farmers to grow enough wheat, maize, rice and other crops. A growing number of people in Africa can no longer afford the price of bread.

Africa is struggling to alleviate a conflict-induced famine that could plunge some 30 million Africans into catastrophic levels of food insecurity. This could aggravate economic tensions and political unrest. As millions struggle to buy food, fuel and fertilizer, anti-government protests are a real possibility.

From the start, the African Development Bank realized the strategic need to address the devastating impact of war on Africa’s food security. It was important to prevent unrest and even more human suffering. In May, the Bank established a $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility. In less than 60 days, he implemented programs worth $1.13 billion under the facility and in 25 African countries. Half a dozen additional programs are expected to launch by September as more governments apply to install.

The African Emergency Food Production Facility will provide wheat and other seeds of certified climate-adapted staple crops and increased access to agricultural fertilizers to 20 million farmers. Over the next two years, the facility will allow farmers to produce an additional 38 million tonnes of food, a 30% increase in local production, worth an estimated $12 billion. To facilitate even greater global investment in Africa’s agricultural sector, the facility will also support better governance and policy reforms.

While this is a good start, Africa needs the international community to fill a $200 million funding gap for the facility. President Joe Biden has endorsed the African Emergency Food Production Facility, and it’s welcome support, as is his support for the African Development Bank’s Africa Disaster Risk Financing program.

To help African governments pay drought and flood insurance premiums and better respond to food insecurity caused by climate change, the Disaster Risk Financing program is a much-needed future part of the Facility.

To boost agricultural production in Nigeria, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire, the Japan International Cooperation Agency recently partnered with the African Development Bank to co-finance the programs of the African Emergency Food Production Facility. International development agencies and a growing coalition of nations are also supporting the Africa Emergency Food Production Facility.

Launched in 2018, the African Development Bank’s flagship program on Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) provides technologies in the form of climate-resilient crop varieties – seeds that are resistant to drought, high or pests, for example.

In Ethiopia, thanks to heat-tolerant wheat seeds funded by TAAT, the country has increased cultivated land from 50,000 hectares to an additional 675,000 hectares in just four years. TAAT’s climate-smart seeds are helping wheat crops thrive in Ethiopia’s arid lowlands, where ordinary wheat varieties typically don’t grow well.

More locally grown wheat has reduced Ethiopia’s dependence on wheat imports. By joining TAAT, the country did not need to import wheat for the first time this year. With the continued support of the Bank, Ethiopia will become a wheat exporter in 2023. It will export over one million metric tons of wheat to Kenya and Djibouti. That’s enough food to feed 10 million people for 12 months.

The African Development Bank knows what works.

TAAT has already reached 12 million farmers. We call on our international partners and governments to join us as we scale up TAAT through the new African Emergency Food Production Facility.

Our commitment to help Africa produce more food by adapting to climate change has won the support of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who recently said that the Bank’s allocation of half of its financing adaptation is the standard to be followed by international development partners. The United States Department of the Treasury has approved the African Emergency Food Production Facility as part of the International Financial Institutions Action Plan to Address Food Insecurity – A Pre-Selected Program Guide for Countries donors.

Africa does not need food aid to feed itself. Africa needs appropriate investments and seeds in the ground.

The Africa Emergency Food Facility will provide an immediate solution to the twin global challenges of conflict and climate change, and will play an immediate, medium and long-term role in the growth of Africa’s agricultural sector as a foundation for resilient African economies.

Policy reforms will help trigger the structural reforms needed for market-based input distribution and more competitive crop production.

Today and in the future, the African Development Bank offers a proven plan to unlock Africa’s food production potential and see Africa become a breadbasket for the world.

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina is President of the African Development Bank Group

The article was first published on the China Global Television (CGTN.com) website on August 5, 2022.

Opinions expressed by contributors are strictly personal and do not belong to TheCable.

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