From 24-26 July 2023 in Rome, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the UN Food Systems Stocktaking Moment as the first global follow-up to the 2021 Food Systems Summit. The event will provide an opportunity for countries to confirm the commitments made during the Summit and share success stories and evidence of change. Africa is likely to rise to the limelight in its quest to end hunger, improve food security and build resilience in the face of climate change.
Nearly two decades ago, around the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for decisive action to end hunger in Africa.
“We are here to discuss one of the most serious problems on the planet, the hunger epidemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of millions of Africans. With greater purpose and urgency. Unless we act, this problem will continue.”
In a speech in Addis Ababa on 5 July 2004, Annan noted the vulnerability of smallholder farmers in Africa to climate shocks and declining soil fertility, drawing on the science available in Asia. It acknowledged that its breakthroughs cannot be directly applied to Africa. Annan referred to his Force work for the United Nations Millennium His Project Hunger Tasks, which included complementary investments in small-scale irrigation, improved soil health, infrastructure and social safety in his nets. , called for a different kind of green revolution, a more holistic approach.
“Let us create a unique African green revolution, a long-awaited revolution, a revolution that will help the continent seek dignity and peace.”
The World Development Report 2008, based on statistics up to 2004, noted that Asia’s green revolution breakthrough in cereals had not reached sub-Saharan Africa. This lagging performance was attributed to several factors, including high reliance on rain-fed agriculture, diversity of staple crops, poor infrastructure, policy discrimination against agriculture, and low public and private investment. . Fertilizer use, a key contributor to the success of Asia’s Green Revolution, was only 12 kilograms per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa in 2004, 10% below Asian usage levels at the time. was less than 1 of him for a minute.
Malawi was one of the first countries to meet the Annan challenge. Controversially, Malawian President Bing wa Mutharika subsidized inputs through a government-funded voucher scheme known as the Agricultural Input Subsidy Program (FISP), against the advice of the strongest donors. Paid Money. Millions of small farmers received fertilizer and improved seeds at a fraction of the market price.
Good rainfall and a strong response to subsidized fertilizers and improved seeds led to a doubling of domestic maize production in 2006. Critics argued that Mutharika could not sustain these results due to weather conditions. However, despite a change in the country’s leadership and stop-start support from Malawian donors, FISP continues as a strategy to improve farm productivity and national food security. The results are impressive. Since 2005, Malawian farmers have produced surpluses above the country’s needs for three years, excluding 2015, 2016 and 2018 (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Maize production and consumption requirements in Malawi, 1961-2021
Source: Denning (2023) Universal Food Security: How to End Hunger While Protect the Planet. p. 188
Note: Data from FAOSTAT.
Domestic corn production increased by 79% between 2004 and 2019 (comparing averages between 2002-2004 and 2017-2019). This increase is a result of a 62% increase in average yield and a 10% increase in harvested area. As a country with limited land resources and a high population density, Malawi’s increased maize production reflects the experience of Asia and shows that it is possible to intensify existing arable land under rain-fed conditions. It should also be recognized that productivity growth in Asia has depended on significant government support through inputs, credit subsidies, market support prices and aggressive extension campaigns. .
Since its launch in 2005, the case of input subsidies in Malawi and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa has been a source of intense debate. FISP has undoubtedly enabled agricultural intensification and increased food availability in Malawi overall. Smallholder farmers in Malawi have two basic resources available to ensure food security for their households in a harsh production environment. land and labor. Fertilizers and improved seeds have increased productivity of both. With little room to expand the land frontier in Malawi, the only solution has been to consolidate existing land.
A broader comparison of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia reveals unexpected similarities (Figure 2). Compared to his 2004 baseline, the year Kofi Annan called for a “uniquely African green revolution,” cereal production in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 76% in 2019. Taking 1966 as the baseline for the Green Revolution in Asia, the year the ‘miracle rice’ variety IR8 was released, he increased production by 62%. The increase in Asia is almost entirely due to yield per hectare, while the increase in Sub-Saharan Africa is due to a combination of area expansion (53%) and yield (27%).
Figure 2. Growth in cereal production in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia during the first 15 years of the Green Revolution in each region. (2004-2019 and 1966-1981 respectively).
Source: Denning (2023) Universal Food Security: How to End Hunger While Protect the Planet. p. 45
Note: Data from FAOSTAT.
Disclaimer: The authors quote extensively from Denning (2023) Universal Food Security: How to End Hunger While Protecting the Planet (Columbia University Press).
Despite these promising results from Malawi and across sub-Saharan Africa, it is too early to declare ‘mission accomplished’. While most African countries continue to import food, this is a reality exposed by the disruptions in his chain of supply caused by COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Population growth, urbanization and changing diets continue to pose challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers across the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for one-fifth of the world’s anthropogenic land degradation, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). There will continue to be pressure to advance the land frontier through deforestation, which is accompanied by biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Fueled by the progress of the past 15 years and the need to halt land degradation, there is a compelling case for Phase 2 of Kofi Annan’s unique African Green Revolution. And the core strategy for Phase 2 should be a sustainable enhancement strategy. in total This will result in the following combination of actions being implemented in national and local contexts:
- gain production on existing farms through gain Use of external inputs such as improved seeds, inorganic and organic fertilizers, and irrigation. The case of Malawi is an example of such behavior, noting that even with FISP the yield of maize in the country is only 2 tonnes per hectare compared to 7 tonnes per hectare today. please.
- maintain Current farm production levels, but with a reduced environmental footprint due to more efficient use of inputs. Examples include developing and expanding more accurate fertilizer recommendations, promoting fertilizer mixing facilities, and increasing the use of higher-yielding area-adapted varieties that take full advantage of improved soil fertility. will be
- return through strategic use of critical external inputs such as inorganic and organic fertilizers, legume crops and forages as intercrops and rotations, agroforestry, water harvesting, and appropriately adapted crop types and varieties; Abandoned and unproductive land.
- Abandon Annual planting of some non-productive lands and development of more sustainable and alternative businesses, including forestry, agroforestry and managed grazing systems. Carbon farming should be considered a source of income in these lands.
- reduce Reduce post-harvest losses in storage, transportation, processing, and marketing, thereby generating more net food supply from the land.
- protect Protect remaining natural ecosystems and ensure the valuation and compensation of the environmental services they provide (such as biodiversity compensation, carbon retention, and water and soil conservation).
These actions will be most effective when combined with investments in market infrastructure and business-friendly policies to enable surpluses in excess of consumption requirements to be sold profitably to consumers. Investments in transport infrastructure, electrification and digital information and communication systems are essential complementary investments for sustainable enhancement.
The argument for Africa’s own green revolution is more compelling than ever. In Asia, important lessons have been learned in the first phase of the Green Revolution. The second phase of Asia’s Green Revolution was more subtle, more inclusive, more sustainable and more productive. The United Nations Food System Stocktaking Moment this July provides an important opportunity for African countries to reflect and prepare for the second phase of Kofi Annan’s unique African Green Revolution.