World Food Day Highlights Need for Improved Food Production and Nutrition in Africa
16 October 2011 - A global observance aimed at raising awareness of problems in food supply and distribution - serves as a timely reminder that South Africa needs to take a proactive role on the continent in alleviating food security concerns by using technology to boost food production and make affordable nutritious food available to Africa.
This is according to Country Manager of Pioneer, a DuPont business, who says that more needs to be done to raise awareness around possible solutions to resolve food security concerns in Africa. “South Africa is a vital commercial and export hub and needs to lead by example in using the correct technology and agricultural practices to effectively reduce malnutrition and hunger.
Among the objectives of World Food Day is to encourage economic and technical cooperation among developing countries and to strengthen international and national solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty, as well as draw attention to achievements in food and agricultural development.
Global agricultural productivity has grown at an average total factor productivity (TFP) rate of 1.4% per year between 2000 and 2007. “As a result of the increased demands on agriculture productivity (see attached graph), the current productivity rate will need to grow by 25% over the next 40 years to keep up with demand; and even faster over the next two decades to close the productivity gap to achieve food security.
“Growing regional concerns such as shifting climate patterns, scarcity of water and arable land means that the African agricultural sector needs to produce more with current available resources.”
However, he adds that it is also estimated that a billion people are food insecure. “In Africa alone, 30% of the nearly 840 million people are undernourished. This number is set to increase unless better ways to produce and distribute more nutritional food are established, as Africa’s population is one of the fastest growing globally and is predicted to triple before the end of the century to 3.6 billion. As a result, finding solutions to improve the nutritional value of food will be as important as increasing productivity.”
He says that there are roughly 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide who are responsible for the livelihoods of more than two billion people and who produce an estimated 80% of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Government and local business, through a collaborative approach, have a crucial role to play in addressing food security and productivity, both in terms of mitigating the possible impacts of undernourishment and shortage, as well as adapting to environmental changes coupled with rising food costs. As a developing country, South Africa needs to embrace science and sustainable technologies that promote production, affordability and nutrition.”
Engelbrecht says that advanced breeding technology has already made a significant impact in improving crop yields in some countries and aids farmers in growing more nutritional food.
“In areas where biotechnology is used larger local farmers’ yields have increased by 20 to 30% per hectare and small-scale farmers’ yields by 30 to 40% per hectare. With this in mind, educating local farmers, businesses and governments about the benefits of science and innovation can potentially aid agricultural development in Africa and enable the continent to produce more nutritious food.
“Everything starts with a seed. You can have all of the latest machinery and skilled labour in place, but if you don’t have the correct seed your crops will ultimately fail.
“Food security is everyone’s concern, which is why a comprehensive and collaborative approach to food security that enables sustainability and puts nutritious food on the table as cheap as possible is an absolute necessity for Africa,” concludes Engelbrecht.