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Climate Change and Food Crisis: The Imperative of Modernizing Agricultural Techniques

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Sub-Saharan Africa is said to be the most vulnerable region to the effects of climate change and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather conditions.

Africa should therefore prepare for this new challenge, in addition to the existing problems to continent has to cope with.

Four panelists have debated this issue and arrived at thought provoking conclusions. The eminent panelists are: Sangafowa Mamadou Coulibaly, Minister of Agriculture of Côte d'Ivoire; Lindiwe Sibanda, managing director of a South African NGO involved in the agricultural sector; Calestous Juma, professor at Harvard; and Sheila Sisulu, from the World Food Programme.

The challenge of climate change adaptation is real, says minister Coulibaly. Côte d'Ivoire has lost 10 million hectares of forests over the last 20 years and, for the country, there is the urgent need to manage forest resources rationally, to strike a better balance between economic development and resource protection. Africa must move from an agriculture using large geographical areas to intensive agricultural production that requires less space.

To make this transition, the continent must focus on coherent national and regional policies, involving policy makers and local communities, including the private sector. And on climate change, it must make its voice heard: take its place in a debate that has been too heavily dominated by the North.

For this to happen there is one prerequisite: the modernization of agricultural production on the continent and better marketing practices. This requires adequate information systems, appropriate training centers, located in rural areas, where farmers live. And the continent must also access, at acceptable prices, technologies adapted to its local realities.

Modernization is important, adds a panelist, but this process should not  result in the  marginalization of women, on whom food production mostly depend. Africa should also opt for  a policy based on the quality and  nutritive value of its agriculture.

Examples of successes do exist on the continent. Malawi, for instance, has moved  from food deficit due to under-production to food self-sufficiency, with excesses for export to neighboring countries.

What has been the key factor for this sea change? Leadership, a clear and assertive exit from external dependency to an agricultural organization able to cater to national needs in a sustainable manner.

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