African agricultural development will boost global food security
As the world’s population passes the 8bn mark, global food security is attracting increased attention.
Rising demand for food coupled with growing environmental pressures is placing more strain on already stretched international food supply chains.
Africa’s role in meeting these challenges is crucial as the continent not only has the most rapidly growing population, but also the greatest untapped agricultural potential.
Although global demographic growth is slowing down, the world’s population is set to reach 9.7bn by 2050. At the same time, Africa’s population jumped from 819m in 2000 to 1.4bn by December 2022 and is set to rise to 2.5bn by 2050.
Yet while food demand increases, the area of arable land under cultivation worldwide is expected to fall by about 24% between 2020 and 2060, as water becomes a more scarce resource and soils become increasingly degraded.
At the same time, unexpected shocks such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian war with Ukraine repeatedly interrupt international supply and demand chains.
These recent disturbances in the global commodities market have made fertilisers unaffordable for many African farmers. According to UN figures, fertiliser prices jumped 300% in the first two months of war breaking out in Ukraine.
With 60% of the world’s remaining unused arable land, Africa’s fertile soils have a key role to play in global food security. Yet the overall fall in global arable acreage means that it is vital to improve crop yields, including through irrigation and new seed strains but particularly through greater use of fertilisers.
Agricultural production is already buoyed by fertiliser use but access to such inputs has historically been more limited in Africa than in any other region.
This means that the continent has the most scope for increasing agricultural production through higher and more targeted fertiliser uptake. Wider fertiliser distribution can help in the short term by boosting yields, thereby immediately addressing the challenges of food insecurity prompted by skyrocketing commodity prices and export disruptions.
In the longer term, increased fertiliser use can help African farmers to boost the region’s food sovereignty, particularly during periods of crisis, by building resilient food systems.
Source: African Business