A mother teaches her children during the COVID-19 pandemic in Shamva District, Zimbabwe. Over 10,000 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Africa; Zimbabwe and South Sudan are among the most vulnerable. Credit: WFP / Tatenda MachekaWASHINGTON DC, Dec. 18 (IPS) – Africa has largely escaped the devastating death toll from COVID-19 compared to Asia, Europe and the US, accounting for a fraction of the 63 million cases worldwide.
Instead, the continent has been uniquely affected by the impact of the pandemic on food supply chains. It uncovered the underlying weaknesses that could create another crisis and threatens famine in several African countries.
As donors, NGOs and research organizations join forces to help governments prevent extreme hunger and poverty from rising, we have the opportunity to transform Africa’s food systems for the better at a time when the whole world is a turning point for sustainability of food has reached systems.
By tackling the secondary effects of the pandemic, Africa can build greater resilience to global shocks and skip other regions by reconfiguring a food system that the continent – and the world – have long outgrown.
This could serve as a blueprint for other regions and countries in the run-up to a milestone of the UN summit in 2021, and help the rest of the world use food and agriculture for better health, climate action and opportunities for equality.
Such a roadmap should begin with recognizing that the diet, nutrition and health of a population underpin all other indicators of progress and prosperity.
With this in mind, agriculture should be at the heart of any national or regional strategy for development and economic growth.
Since its inception in 2003, the Comprehensive Agriculture Development Program in Africa (CAADP) has set clear goals for agriculture as drivers of other goals, and has signed up to more than 40 countries.
By 2015, public spending on agriculture across Africa under the CAADP had increased more than seven percent a year to ensure more and better livelihoods, greater food security and greater resilience.
It also provides a clear, shared vision around which partners like agricultural research networks like CGIAR can band together to play their role.
Such an integrated, coordinated approach, both between governments and between partners, will be critical to the implementation of the next decade of the program to accelerate the transformation of African agriculture.
While a high-level framework like CAADP is critical to bringing partners together to pursue common goals, each country, district, and neighborhood also needs solutions that fit their specific contexts.
The world may be connected by a shared need to produce sufficient healthy food in a sustainable manner, but the means by which this is achieved vary enormously depending on social and environmental factors.
By developing more innovations that match geographic needs, food systems can become more responsive, adaptable, and effective.
In the past 20 years, for example, CGIAR has developed 52 separate innovations for sustainable animal husbandry, plant breeding and natural resource management in Ethiopia alone. By adapting to the specific challenges facing smallholders, women and youth, these solutions have reached an estimated 11 million rural households.
In the future, initiatives such as the “Technologies for the Transformation of African Agriculture” (TAAT) program, led by CGIAR and financed by the African Development Bank, will integrate expertise from various research areas in order to further increase the acceptance of suitable new technologies.
TAAT works in 30 countries and aims to increase raw food production by 120 million tons per year. This is helping lift approximately 40 million people out of poverty by focusing on national needs in different crops and farm animals, as well as different challenges from plant pests to soil fertility.
Finally, in reforming agriculture, Africa has the opportunity to address systematic and long-term inequalities, especially when it comes to gender inequality.
Women in Africa continue to do around 40 percent of agricultural work, but their frequent exclusion from financial services, land rights and equal opportunities for education is hampering agricultural development in Africa.
The CGIAR’s COVID-19 hub will allow researchers to work together while drawing lessons from research across the CGIAR system that can both aid recovery from the pandemic and identify opportunities to close the gender gap.
For example, one study highlights the challenges women pet owners face compared to men due to a lack of forage during the pandemic and offers solutions that can unlock women’s potential and build resilience not only for women but also for their families and their communities.
If research into the relationship between human, animal and environmental health had been better funded, the world might not have faced today’s COVID-19, health and hunger crisis.
However, if there is a lesson to be learned, it should be that investing in agricultural research can help prevent the next disaster in Africa and around the world.
It is now clear that the needs of a 21st century food system are wider than ever, and we must face the challenge of reshaping a food system for Africa itself and of Africa for the world.
Follow @IPSNewsUNBureauFollow IPS New UN Bureau on Instagram
(2020) – All rights reserved