By Haim Taib
Food insecurity and malnutrition are inextricably linked with the factors leading to the world’s changing weather patterns, such as deforestation. These are grave and urgent problems whose solutions call for cooperation and innovation on a global scale.
In a world grappling with the consequences of climate change, conflicts, and disruptions to global supply chains, the spectre of global hunger looms large, with food production being a uniquely vulnerable sector. Despite the severity of the situation, media coverage and public outrage over food insecurity and malnutrition remain conspicuously absent.
Africa, a region already vulnerable to food insecurity, is facing a dire situation. According to recent reports by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the African Union (AU), approximately 346 million people across the continent are currently affected by the food insecurity crisis, affecting one in four individuals. The crisis has resulted in the death of 1.5 million livestock, and crop production is declining significantly, reaching levels between 58 per cent and 70 per cent below the average. Climate change serves as a key exacerbating factor, contributing to the chronic crisis that continues to worsen each year.
The upcoming El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is expected to have significant repercussions on agriculture in Africa and other parts of the world. ENSO is a climate pattern that occurs every few years and can cause extreme weather events, including droughts and floods. The current El Niño, anticipated to be particularly strong, is already impacting weather patterns in Africa.
In some regions, the El Niño is triggering severe droughts, leading to a decline in crop yields. For instance, Ethiopia has witnessed crop yields declining by as much as 50 per cent due to the drought. Conversely, in other areas, the event has resulted in destructive floods that not only damage crops but also displace populations. Mozambique, for example, has experienced devastating floods, leading to the loss of lives and the displacement of thousands.
Addressing food security challenges requires a comprehensive approach that embraces innovation and international collaboration. Climate change drivers, such as deforestation, pose a multilayered threat to food security, as they lead to soil degradation and disrupt local weather cycles. Restoring deforested land is a daunting task, highlighting the urgency for sustainable practices and innovative solutions.
Human innovation has consistently provided promising solutions to combat challenges in agriculture. For example, Israel has successfully pioneered solutions, including drip irrigation and soil sensors, which have significantly enhanced water efficiency, ensured food security, and promoted economic growth in challenging environments. Africa, with its abundant natural resources and capabilities, has the potential to establish stable and sustainable food production chains for millions of people globally.
Positive examples of progress are emerging, with some African nations adopting improved seed varieties and agricultural extension services to increase crop yields. Ethiopia, for instance, recorded a 15 per cent increase in wheat production in 2022. Nigeria’s focus on mechanisation and irrigation schemes has positioned it as one of the world’s leading rice-producing nations.
Furthermore, initiatives like Angola’s ‘Planagrão’ programme seek to transform the country into one of Africa’s largest grain producers by 2027. These programmes channel resources, infrastructure, and land provisions to foster agricultural growth while emphasising social and environmental responsibilities.
Given the looming El Niño, it becomes even more crucial to prepare for and mitigate its effects on agriculture. Collaboration between nations can help vulnerable regions, like Chad, which faces severe water shortages and famine due to unsustainable water use and reliance on external grain supply. The partnership between Chad and Israel, leveraging the latter’s expertise in addressing water scarcity and agricultural innovation, holds the potential to alleviate these crises and create a more sustainable future for the entire region.
The challenge of food insecurity and malnutrition requires urgent attention and collaborative efforts at both individual and geopolitical levels. By embracing innovative solutions, responsible resource utilisation, and international partnerships, we can pave the way for a more sustainable and food-secure future for all, mitigating the impacts of climate change, ENSO, and other man-made factors on agriculture and human well-being.
About the Author
Haim Taib is the founder and president of the Mitrelli Group and Menomadin Foundation, and an expert in developing and strengthening countries in Africa