Africa must pull together to sow seeds of food security
Courtesy: Nation Daily, Bean harvest in Djibomben village, North Togo. AFP
By Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives
What you need to know:
- The government listed food security as one of its four priorities for development.
- While we have made critical steps towards the attainment of 100 per cent food and nutrition security, a lot more needs to be done.
In the last 10 years, Kenya’s population has increased by 32 per cent to reach 53.8 million people. Over this period, the urban population has risen from 10 million to just over 15 million.
These two factors – a general rise in population and an increase in the number of urban dwellers – have tremendously increased the pressure on the country’s food systems, calling for a rethink of how we approach our agri-food investments.
The government listed food security as one of its four priorities for development. While we have made critical steps towards the attainment of 100 per cent food and nutrition security, a lot more needs to be done.
The focus must now be skewed to agriculture, which stands out as the backbone of the country’s economy, directly contributing 25 per cent of the GDP and another 25 per cent indirectly.
Undoubtedly, the sector can do even more than this, noting that the country’s resources, including extensive arable lands, favourable climates and a youthful population remain vastly underexploited.
Enhance food production
Indeed, opportunities abound in agriculture for over 500,000 youth that enter the labour market every year, especially now that the government has in place structures allowing for more access to high-quality inputs, better markets and affordable finance.
These are some of the underpinning agenda that we created to centralise agricultural development in our government’s economic transformation plans.
And with the foundation firmly in place, we now advance to a period of rapid development that will see us shift from net food importation, hunger and nutrition insecurity, and joblessness.
This is our time to intensively tap on youth, science, technology and innovation to enhance food production, while de-risking agricultural investment. All these while enhancing intra-regional trade by harmonising policies that allow us to contribute to Africa’s food security.
From today, Kenya will host Africa’s heads of state and government, private sector players, farmers, scientists, youth and other partners at the AGRF Summit 2021 in Nairobi to discuss the best ways for harmonising our development agenda, for food and nutrition security plus the creation of jobs that improve the livelihoods of our people.
It is, indeed, an honour for Kenya to be hosting the AGRF 2021 Summit for the second time after the 2016 edition. The 2021 Summit comes at a critical time when the country is working towards rebuilding our food systems following the shocks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic lay bare the fragility of our food systems, which had already been negatively affected by the effects of climate change including droughts, floods and locust invasions.
These challenges called us to rethink our approach to food production, and as we now seek to build back better. Additionally, this year’s event has more prominence because it comes in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit in New York, where world leaders meet later this month to review the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
For African leaders and other food system stakeholders, the Summit seeks to consolidate our progress, objectives, plans and critical next steps for the transformation of food systems on the continent.
Mr Munya, EGH, is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives