With the global population expected to increase to over 9 billion people in 2050, experts have been predicting dire food situations. In Africa, in particular, the population is projected to go from being home to 15 percent of the world population today to 25 percent in 2050.
However, it is also Africa that offers major solutions in feeding the world. While there’s no silver bullet to providing food for all, here are some examples of what can be (and is being) done to improve food production and distribution in Africa:
1. While other regions have reached the limits to agricultural yield per hectare of land, Africa can substantially increase yields with currently available technology.
In certain parts of Africa, farmer yields remain as low as 1-1.5 tons per hectare, compared to potential yields of 3.5 tons per hectare in other regions of the world. That current underperformance translates into future opportunity.
Some companies are recognizing African farmers’ potential, including IGD member Seed Co., Africa’s largest proprietary seed breeding, production, processing and distribution group. Seed Co. is a founder of the Last Mile Alliance, an innovative model that brings together commercial partners (providers of high-quality farm inputs, financial services and insurance), existing agro-dealers, foundations and donors to create a cost-effective rural distribution network to reach smallholder farmers in Tanzania, delivering both commercial success and development impact at scale.
2. A lot of the added food needed to feed an expanding population already exists — we just need to reduce food spoilage and waste, and Africa is no exception.
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More than 30 percent of all food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, and saving just a quarter of that food would allow us to feed an added 870 million hungry people. Where in the value chain is food wasted? In medium- and high-income countries, quality standards that over-emphasize food’s appearance and consumer decisions to buy more food contribute heavily to massive food waste. In contrast, food loss in Africa occurs almost entirely in the production and distribution stages, leading experts to call for investment in infrastructure, transportation, packaging facilities and processing in the developing world to fight food loss.
Through the IGD-Rockefeller Post-Harvest Loss Project, IGD has engaged more than 45 companies in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria to identify scalable, market-led solutions to reduce waste and spoilage in several value chains. For example, the Dutch Agricultural Development & Trading Co., a private company established in 2002 to drive poverty alleviation via business methods, is currently tackling the issue of food spoilage. Through its autonomous mobile processing units, DADTCO brings processing directly to cassava farmers in Ghana, Mozambique and Nigeria, circumventing spoilage issues that arise during transportation of cassava to traditional processing plants.
3. Compared to other global regions, Africa’s potential for sheer expansion of cultivated land is huge.
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Some 60 percent of Earth’s uncultivated land is located in Africa. That translates into 600 million hectares. While not all potential farmland should be converted given environmental and commercial considerations, the opportunity for sustainable expansion does exist. As the efficiency of land use increases through yields, less land will be needed for farms in the future.
While analysts are concerned about global population growth, signs of progress in food security persist. In Africa, with continued efforts in increasing yields, reducing waste and efficiently using land, the continent's agricultural potential will be part of the solution to feeding 9 billion people by 2050.
Feeding Development is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with ACDI/VOCA, Chemonics, Fintrac, GAIN, Nestlé and Tetra Tech to reimagine solutions for a food-secure future from seed and soil to a healthy meal.