Adapting Africa's Food Systems: A Necessity for Sustainable Future

Posted on 12 March 2024

The prosperity of any society hinges on its ability to ensure food security, and Africa is no exception. With over 820 million people globally facing hunger, a staggering 278 million reside in Africa. The continent's pursuit of food security is constantly challenged by the relentless impact of climate change. Crop failures, loss of livestock, and diminished yields become more frequent occurrences, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent. 

 

The World Bank warns of an impending doubling of extreme droughts and persistent heavy rainfall, which will inevitably affect food production and exacerbate malnutrition. The projected 3°C scenario by 2030 in Africa is poised to disrupt incomes and wreak havoc on ecosystem resources and functions. Despite the potential promise of a 1.5°C scenario, recurrent shocks are still anticipated, as recent droughts in Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and other nations underscore the need to adapt the entire food system to address vital resources like land, water, and production inputs. Rural populations, who rely heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, bear the brunt of these climate-induced shocks. Vulnerable populations, including women and children, are disproportionately affected, further exacerbating social inequalities. 

 

The prevailing food systems in Africa, dominated by industrial-scale production, contribute significantly to climate change, with up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions originating from this sector. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that addressing emissions from food systems is crucial to limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Rapid decarbonization across all sectors is essential, along with efforts to reduce food loss and waste and promote sustainable agriculture. A comprehensive transformation of food systems is urgently needed to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss and ensure food security within planetary boundaries. And as temperatures rise and weather patterns become more erratic, traditional farming practices become less reliable. 

 

Adapting Africa's food systems to climate change is no longer a choice but a necessity. A holistic approach involving integrated land and water management systems is indispensable to reverse biodiversity loss and rehabilitate degraded regions. Sustainable food systems approaches must champion increased support for smallholders and indigenous communities, acknowledging their role as custodians of Africa's biodiversity and ecosystems.

 

Long-term strategies must include policies and incentives for nature-positive food production, reducing food loss and waste, and shifting towards healthy and sustainable diets. Governments should enhance financial support for climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive food systems. In addition, aid agencies and private financiers must fulfill existing financial pledges and allocate more climate finance for transformative solutions within the agriculture and food sectors.

 

A recent report on African Food Systems by WWF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, IFPRI/CGIAR and AfDB underscores that to take the continent out of poverty, Africa’s food systems need to provide sufficient affordable, nutritious food for its population, whilst generating income and employment to support Africa’s economic and social development. But the long-term functioning of food systems relies on natural capital – the natural resources and ecosystems that provide the inputs needed for food production, including fertile soils, water and a conducive climate. These resources are currently being depleted and degraded at an alarming rate, with significant impacts on biodiversity, climate change, and ultimately, on the ability of food systems to fulfill their functions.

 

 

While global initiatives and governmental policies play a crucial role, individuals can make a meaningful difference through their choices and actions. Participating in the global Earth Hour campaign, which encourages spending at least an hour doing something positive for the environment, is one such impactful action..

 

Earth Hour: A Symbol of Collective Action for Environmental Sustainability

 

Earth Hour, a global grassroots movement, has become a symbol of collective action to create awareness of climate change and promote environmental sustainability. While observed worldwide, its significance is particularly crucial in Africa, where the impacts of climate change are deeply felt, and the conservation of natural resources is vital for the continent's future and food security. As individuals, we can participate in Earth Hour by giving one hour for the Earth and promote food security through:

 

Supporting Local Farmers - By purchasing food from local farmers and markets, individuals can support small-scale agriculture and contribute to local economies. Supporting smallholder farmers helps to ensure a diverse and resilient food system while reducing dependence on imported goods.

 

Promoting Agroecology - Agroecological practices promote sustainable farming methods that prioritize soil health, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship. Individuals can learn about and advocate for agroecology in their communities, supporting initiatives that promote regenerative agriculture and sustainable land management practices.

 

Reducing Food Waste -  Food waste is a significant issue globally, with millions of tons of food wasted each year. Individuals can take steps to reduce food waste by planning meals, buying only what is needed, and properly storing and preserving food. 

 

Embrace Sustainable Eating Habits - Adopting sustainable eating habits, such as reducing meat consumption, eating seasonally and locally, and choosing plant-based options, can have a positive impact on both health and the environment. Plant-rich diets require fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than diets high in animal products. For Earth hour, you could cook a meal only using sustainable ingredients .

 

Invest in Education - Education plays a crucial role in building awareness and understanding of food security issues and sustainable food systems. Individuals can invest in educating themselves and others about the importance of sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and food sovereignty, empowering communities to take action.A good start to this would be to ensure education of our youth in schools to empower them with knowledge, skills and tools.

 

Engage in Community Building - Building strong and resilient communities is essential for addressing food security challenges. Individuals can engage in community-building activities, such as participating in community gardens, food cooperatives, or farmers' markets, to foster connections and collaboration around food security issues.

 

As Earth Hour approaches, it serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to safeguard the planet and contribute towards food security. We all have a crucial role to play in building sustainable and resilient food systems across Africa and can contribute to positive change and help create a future where food security is promoted across Africa. 



 

Earth Hour will take place on March 23rd 2024.  To learn more about Earth Hour visit africa.panda.org 


 
Man harvesting maize in Botswana
© Abel Valdivia/WWF US