With a food import bill of Africa hovering around $35bn per annum, can Africa feed itself?
This question in the context of food security was on the front burner of a meeting of African journalists that was organised by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA), a Kenyan-based organisation and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a leading research and advocacy think tank based in New Delhi, India, according to Bizcommunity.
The meeting was held under the theme: The Crisis in African Agriculture. The event brought together about 30 journalists from around Africa and India to discuss the fact that Africa has become a net importer of food particularly now when the continent was reportedly spending some $35bn a year on food imports. Experts say this is more than what the continent receives in total overseas development assistance.
The import trap
“What has led to this state of affairs? Asked Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of Down To Earth, (CSE) publication.
“India is caught in this import trap too. African countries are actually entering the Indian crisis trap. We need commitments from our government to move out of this agricultural import trap.
“Climate change is already destroying all efforts to lift Africa from the food import trap. We need to interrogate issues around this and engage our policymakers.” Aghan Daniel, a veteran Kenyan journalist, says the future state and role of agriculture in Africa is a critical discussion if we are to increase food production and enhance food security on this continent of one billion people.
Journalists must dig deeper
She further says changing tastes, copying western have worsened the situation. “We have strayed from our own indigenous diets. We have evolved and we are now eating everything western. As journalists, we need to understand these trends and make adequate preparations to cover Africa’s agricultural issues comprehensively. “As African journalists, we have to be assertive and know our own standpoint when it comes to agricultural issues facing the continent.
Says Kiran Pandey, a media expert at CSE: “Journalists should desist from solely relying on official statements. You must go beyond hand-out journalism or even press releases.” She says it was more important to also look at the plight and needs of smallholder farmers who bore the brunt of climate change and other related agricultural policies.
Africa has become a net food importer and has to grapple to find strategies to feed more people in future. This continent of more than one billion people has 65 percent of the world’s arable lands that are yet to be cultivated. CSE researchers say if this land is cultivated it could feed over nine billion people.