By Khalifa Hemed
Published October 30, 2017
Though Africa sits on 65% of the uncultivated arable land left in the world, it is the only region of the world where the number of people who face food insecurity has increased, 300 million more people are malnourished and the continent shall spend US$110 billion to import food annually by 2030.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and winner of the World Food Prize 2017, argues there is no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region.
Speaking in Iowa, USA on October 16, 2017 during the Norman Borlaug Lecture that is dedicated to Norman Borlaug, Founder of the World Food Prize and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world, Dr Adesina said Africa has the potential to feed all the nine billion people who shall inhabit the Earth by 2050.
Adesina, Nigeria’s former Minister for Agriculture, decries the current situation where Africa spends US$35 billion annually on food importation, describing it as unacceptable.
The Laureate calls for tax to be slapped on unused or underutilised agricultural land to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.
Stressing why, more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential, Adesina, who is fondly referred to ‘African Farmers’ Minister’, said “African farmers need … a policy lift.”
Adesina stressed that despite the progress globally in food production, the world still has 700 million people languishing in extreme poverty. This, he added, includes 800 million with chronic hunger, two billion people with micronutrient deficiency, and 150 million children under five years of age who are suffering from stunted growth.
“There is therefore absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food-importing region. Africa has huge potential in agriculture, but, as Dr Borlaug used to say, nobody eats potential!”
Unlocking that potential must start with the savannas of Africa which covers “a mind-boggling 600 million hectares of which 400 million hectares are cultivable,” Adesina said.
Africa’s savannah, he said, are better than the savannas of Brazil, because their soils are not acidic and therefore do not need liming, which had to be done at massive scales in Brazil.
“Yet, while the savannas of Brazil feed the world, those of Africa cannot even feed the farmers there,” he said.
Adesina highlighted how technologies, innovations, research and development, mechanisation, modernisation of agriculture, policy support and massive investments in infrastructure made the difference to turn the savannas of Brazil and those of northern Thailand into a food powerhouse.
To transform its agriculture, Dr Adesina said, Africa must develop a new agrarian system that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers, with mechanisation being made a top priority.