Africa can be a world leader in food system transformation that also alleviates poverty and protects the environment, but it will take collaborative and co-ordinated work, argue Angela Churie Kallhauge, Exec Vice-President, Environmental Defense Fund, Ishmael Sunga, CEO, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions and Serah Makka, Exec Director, ONE Africa.
When a continent with 65% of the world’s arable land struggles to feed its 1.4bn people, we know something is wrong and that the African and global food systems need a rethink.
The pressing need to fashion a more productive, transparent, equitable food system – and reduce poverty and the far-reaching effects of climate change – requires us to urgently forge alliances among diverse stakeholders and sectors.
In this case, our collective efforts, spanning agriculture, poverty alleviation and the environment, form a powerful force to drive lasting change and support thriving communities.
Together, we are dedicated to strengthening the continent’s food producers to cultivate a more resilient and sustainable food system.
Africa can lead a global movement toward food system transformation – but challenges like extreme climate impacts, limited access to resources, and power imbalances thwart its effort.
The role of agriculture in poverty alleviation is indisputable – it impacts employment, GDP, food security and countless livelihoods. To harness this potential, we need a holistic food systems approach that transforms lives while confronting the climate crisis. With global support, Africa can build a food system that enhances food security, prosperity, and ecological equilibrium.
A significant asset on this journey is Africa’s youth, comprising nearly 60% of the continent’s population. By empowering young farmers through training, entrepreneurship, and technology, Africa can tap into their potential for innovative, climate-sensitive agriculture.
These young leaders are already making strides in sustainable agriculture, but they require support to flourish. With secure land rights, financial backing, and proper training, Africa can unleash the full potential of its agripreneurs, securing a sustainable agricultural future.
Urbanisation, often seen as a challenge, can be turned into an opportunity. As cities grow, so does the demand for locally produced food. Connecting farmers and agribusinesses to urban markets can create thriving agricultural value chains benefiting both producers and consumers.
Investing in agricultural research and technology is paramount. Innovation, digital solutions, and research-driven practices can optimise productivity, resource efficiency, and market insights.
This includes precision agriculture, improved seeds, water management, pest control, climate-smart strategies, and supportive policies. Research, adapted to local contexts, plays a pivotal role in refining and disseminating these strategies, enhancing productivity, sustainability and resilience.
Furthermore, climate-resilient agricultural practices are essential. Blending indigenous knowledge with modern technologies can optimise productivity while reducing the environmental footprint.
Africa’s journey toward agricultural leadership requires support from the global community. International organisations can provide funding, expertise, and knowledge exchange to promote sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of success. Through collective action, Africa can tap into its unity and address complex issues more effectively. Organisations like ONE.org, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) actively collaborate to advocate for policy changes, knowledge-sharing, and support for sustainable and resilient food systems.
Policy reforms are imperative to create an enabling environment for agricultural development. Governments must incentivise climate-smart practices, support value addition, and promote sustainable investments. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), for example, offers a roadmap for policy reforms, coordination, and transparent resource allocation.
Despite challenges, Africa’s agricultural potential is boundless. To overcome obstacles, we must attract financing, harness the innovative spirit of the youth, promote climate-resistant practices, invest in research and technology, and collaborate across sectors.
Climate change is a defining factor in Africa’s ability to feed itself and the world. It demands investments in infrastructure, innovation, and a new generation of climate-sensitive farmers and agripreneurs.
This journey requires multi-sector partnerships and collaborative efforts, fuelled by various forms of funding, from philanthropy to commercial investments. Africa’s future, in fact the world’s future, marked by sustainability, inclusivity, and prosperity, is within reach, and it beckons us to act now.