African Reserves

Kenyan economist urges Africa to encourage large-scale agriculture to boost food security

Peasant Agriculture in Burundi, Burundi. (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

According to an agricultural expert, Africa needs to focus more on large-scale commercial farming rather than subsistence farming to improve its long-term food security prospects.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that around 60% of farms in sub-Saharan Africa are less than one hectare, and these farms account for nearly 20% of agricultural land.

Some African countries have banned the export of grain and other agricultural products to ensure food security and increase local production of poultry and livestock. /Getty Pictures

Although these farms feed households, create jobs and provide other benefits, such as preserving ecosystems and protecting the environment, Ogutu believes they are not enough to meet the continent’s food needs.

Churchill Ogutu, an economist at Kenya-based Genghis Capital Investment Bank, said African governments and industry players must do more to exploit the continent’s arable land and stop relying on surpluses from countries outside the continent. to meet their consumption needs.

“We have failed, as a continent, to harness the full potential of the agricultural sector,” Ogutu said.

“If we can move away from subsistence farming and into large-scale farming, that can offset the import dependency we’re seeing.”

FILE PHOTO: A woman farmer in Burundi. /Getty Pictures

Africa may have more than half of the world’s uncultivated arable land, but issues such as land degradation and low yields mean the continent remains a net importer of food.

Moreover, while Africa has experienced strong population growth over the past 40 years, countries have failed to similarly boost agricultural production and, therefore, enhance their food security.

The current food crisis in Africa, Ogutu noted, is “serious” and has been exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine where Russia launched a special military operation on February 24.

Russia and Ukraine are considered part of the world’s “breadbaskets”, accounting for significant percentages of the world’s production of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil, and African countries are no exception. to the rule by benefiting from their food imports.

FILE PHOTO: Wheat and sunflower fields in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Russia and Ukraine account for more than half of the world’s sunflower oil supply and around 30% of the world’s wheat. /CFP Photo

Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are among the African countries that import more than 50% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, while Somalia and Sudan import more than 80% of their wheat from Russia and from Ukraine.

Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers and oil which are important inputs in agriculture and any increase in their prices leads to higher food prices which aggravates the food crisis.

“Even though trade between Africa and these two countries in aggregate terms is not significantly significant, the negative effects on the transmission channels that bring food and fertilizer from these two countries have indirectly impacted the African continent”.

Ogutu warned that countries’ national grain reserves will be depleted and international aid to stabilize the food situation could dwindle as individual nations prioritize caring for their own citizens first.

Global food protectionism is also on the rise, prompting several African countries to ban exports of grains and other food products to ensure food security and increase food and animal production.

“As we entered this crisis, several countries did not have the necessary buffers to mitigate this kind of situation and give them the necessary breathing space.

“Protectionism of any kind is not encouraged. Most countries will naturally move towards protectionism to ensure food security within their borders. This will obviously play out as this crisis drags on, so this is another negative consequence that will come out of this crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Workers carry sacks of maize at a United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warehouse in Yambio, South Sudan. /Xinhua

However, solving the food crisis, especially in the long term, will be easier said than done, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently acknowledged that it cannot be done without the return of Russia and Ukraine to the world market.

Aware of the seriousness of the situation, the President of the African Union, Macky Sall, also President of Senegal, is to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the release of grain and fertilizer stocks.

According to Ogutu, African countries need a multidimensional solution approach by reinvigorating their agricultural policies, renegotiating funding for the sector from international partners and improving intra-African food trade.

“This is an opportunity to invest locally in the agricultural sector to ensure food security in the future and improve the value chain.”

“It is essential that governments also build capacity and not just focus on raw materials for agricultural food products.”