LONDON/MONTPELLIER. More than 200 million people in Africa, or 23% of the continent’s 1.1 billion people, are classed as suffering from hunger, and despite declines experienced in the past six years, hunger levels have been rising 2% per year since then, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) revealed late last week.
About 40% of children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are underdeveloped due to malnutrition, while more than 95 million hectares of arable land, or 75% of the total in SSA, has highly degraded, according to London-based IIED.
These startling revelations come as a new report by the Montpellier Panel reveals innovative thinking techniques on how to increase sustainable intensification by small scale farmers in Africa to address the continent’s food and nutrition crisis.
It is believed that African agriculture, despite most of it surviving in an intensive care unit, feeds about 80% of people and employing about 75% in Africa.
But, as the continent’s soil continues to degrade, farmers lose eight million tons of soil nutrients each year, estimated to be worth $4 billion USD, IIED said, adding that nearly 3.3 % of agricultural GDP in SSA is lost annually because of soil and nutrient loss.
Sub-Saharan African population will almost double by 2050, to close to two billion people, IIED director Dr Camilla Toulmin said, adding that declines in total fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa are occurring later and slower than in Asia and Latin America.
On present trends, African food production systems will only be able to meet 13% of the continent’s food needs by 2050, she said.
The Montpellier Panel recommends that governments in Africa and developed countries, in partnerships with the private sector and NGOs, recognise and act on the paradigm of sustainable intensification through:
• Adoption of appropriate policies and plans at national and local levels
• Increased financial support for global and domestic research and innovation to develop and identify suitable technologies and processes
• Scaling up and out of appropriate and effective technologies and processes
• Increased investment in rural agricultural market systems and linkages that support the spread and demand for sustainable intensification
• Greater emphasis on ensuring that inputs and credit are accessible and that rights to land and water are secure for African small scale farmers
• Building on and sharing the expertise of African smallholder farmers in their practice of sustainable intensification.
The Montpellier Panel is a panel of international experts from the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy and global development chaired by Professor Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact.
*Photo by Don Cayo/courtesy of Vancover Sun. A child and his mother in Niger, West Africa.