Tackling Food Security Should be a Matter of Urgency for Africa

Tackling Food Security Should be a Matter of Urgency for Africa

I was perusing my social media when I came across a post from one media house in Kenya about the pleas by Kenya’s deputy president Rigathi Gachagua ‘crying foul’ on being reduced to a beggar by traversing the world seeking aid so that Kenyans do not die of hunger.

At first two things came to my mind. One is that this was not a unique case with African leaders because begging is a perfect art they have excelled in. Secondly and with a little digression, our media houses have stooped too low to concentrate on trivial issues instead of playing the role they are called to take. Today’s media industry is filled with ‘investors’ with vested interests and bootlicking is the order of the day.

Interestingly enough, Ghana’s president Akufo Addo urged Africans to stop begging just recently, and in the spirit of good leadership and nationalism, he is a good borrower on the other hand. In simple terms, the point of contention should not be the borrowing but rather the steps to take to ensure the borrowing doesn’t become a point of ridicule.

To be very honest, borrowing is not bad. Most countries including those developed do borrow and the most important discussions revolve around the purpose of the following, how the borrowed money gets spent and the ‘spirit’ of the borrowing. It is very common for some people to borrow to feed their citizens although, in a paradoxical twist, they only feed themselves and their families.

One way to stop being beggars is to build the capacity to feed the African population. Putting in place mechanisms to become food secure. A person who has eaten well will not become a beggar. He will borrow to economically empower themselves. An impoverished individual will beg to only satisfy hunger.

Food Waste

Let’s begin by addressing the real issues. I was having a discussion with my friends in the UK after noticing the amount of food waste in the country. I decided to do an informal survey on the amount of wasted food, especially the cooked and maybe not consumed in time. It is a lot.

We can deduce one fact that these are food wastes from an overfed population. This is to mean there is so much to eat for the majority of the population that sometimes they cannot finish. So over 70% of food waste from homes in the UK is one intended to be consumed but was not.

In Kenya for example, the post-harvest losses stand at about 40% average (varies with different foods) for a country struggling with food. The interpretation here is that yes we produce quite a huge amount of food. But much of it is lost before it gets to our tables. We lose food before eating, pointing to inadequate harvest and post-harvest processes, handling, and storage technologies.

In Nigeria, it is not any different. The post-harvest losses stand at around 50% and the situation is merely the same for other African countries. To be food secure, Africa should address the post-harvest losses by monitoring crop maturity properly, having the right storage facilities for production, and monitoring the various factors such as water and temperature throughout the crop life whilst ensuring quality is maintained.

Maximizing the yield produced by efficient fertilizer use

By reducing the post-harvest losses, we will increase the amount of food available to feed the population. This will be followed by maximizing the yield of the land under farming. There is a huge gap in the yield for equivalent land in Europe, America, or China for example compared to the same land mass in Africa.

Part of the reason for this disparity has to do with fertilizer usage. For instance, in 2006 the average fertilizer usage by hectare in Africa was about 9kg which has improved to 17-20kg today against a global usage of about 135kg.

The problem for Africa has more to do with the cost of fertilizer and the issue of their safety in usage. One way to begin changing the agriculture sector is by viewing it as an industry that needs proper systems management to optimize output.

African countries can come together and decide to invest in fertilizer plants in a bid to reduce the cost of fertilizer and meet the capacity of farmers in the continent. Instead of our investors focusing on building malls and houses that are out of touch with the citizens, they can invest in fertilizer plants.

Once the people are fed, they can work and borrow for investment and have some extra disposable income to use on the ‘stuff’ being toyed around for them. Priorities should be clearly defined. For instance, Kenya has done relatively well in developing road networks which means reducing the costs of transportation and losses due to impassable roads. But there is more to be done.

Land usage and water productivity

Land fragmentation has been a huge issue and I will continue to advocate for land policies that ensure we avoid excessive land fragmentation, increase forest land cover and conservation, and avoid reckless exploitation of natural resources.

I was checking a recent topographical image taken from space between the Kenyan and Tanzania border (considered as is) and the differences are very noticeable. You can see the amount of ‘bare’ land between the two countries and can connect with why our leaders have to go to the mountains to pray for rain.

The Difference is very notable.

Some of these things are not rocket science and neither are the results of the malicious effects of witchcraft save for the witchcraft that we have done against ourselves. That of reducing tree cover and practicing inappropriate agricultural and societal activities which harm the environment.

Successful agriculture is practiced with water. And water is increased by addressing the issues covered in the preceding three paragraphs in addition to reducing pollution to rivers. Water pollution is another story altogether.

I was challenged when I visited the river Thames in London and noticed the stack difference with the Nairobi river. For sure one can be called a river and the other fits the name of an open waste disposal tunnel and by calling it a river, we abuse the sanctity that comes with the name. With the Nairobi river, farming can be a nightmare.

So, if we don’t want to be labeled as beggars, we better make things right on our end. We better work on our policies and become food secure. If anything, Africa should focus on bettering herself if she wants to stop being labeled a beggar.

So food security should top our list of urgent matters to be addressed.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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