Experts: Smallholder Farmers Should Be at The Center of Africa’s Resilience Building Strategies
Food insecurity and poverty in Africa are primarily driven by multiple shocks and risks that include conflicts, climate extremes, and disease outbreaks, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A session at the AGRF Summit 2021, in Nairobi, Kenya (and virtual) sought to identify and share global experiences in resilience building, while showcasing the best practices for addressing the aforementioned shocks. The panel discussion provided an opportunity for debate around the strategies for the reduction of agricultural risks and vulnerabilities.
Leading speaker Dr. Tilahun Amede, the Head of Resilience, Climate & Soil Health at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) reiterated the need for urgent action in reversing the damage caused by agri-food activities on Africa’s ecosystems.
According to Dr. Amede, the continent loses nearly 2% of its forests to agriculture-related activities, further worsening Africa’s climate change situation. He added that more damage is expected if control measures are not taken.
However, Dr. Dennis Garrity, the Board Chair of the Global Ever Greening Alliance and a Senior Fellow, of The World Agroforestry Center, noted that a step-change is being achieved as farmers appreciate the importance of natural tree cover in the creation of a sustainable food production environment.
“Increasingly, farmers are realizing that the establishment of on-farm trees – fruit, fertilizer, fodder and timber trees – builds the family asset base to enhance resilience to climate and other major shocks to livelihoods,” he said.
Still, noted Natasha Santos, Vice President, Global Stakeholders’ Strategy & Affairs at Bayer Crop, more gains can be made for the environment by supporting smallholder farmers to increase their agricultural output on land they already work on.
“When the prosperity of smallholder farmers improves, so do education rates, local economies, sustainable outcomes, and social cohesion. Small farms do more than grow food; they are the backbone of entire communities,” she said.
To this end, Ms. Santos asserted the need for investment in technologies that increase on-farm efficiency, as well as the creation of new avenues to markets.
“It is not just technology and equipment that African farmers need to become more resilient, we must help them create more market linkages,” she said.
Jean Senahoun summed up the session by confirming that the promotion of resilient agricultural systems will fast-track the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals, for most of which Africa is still not on track.
“Building viable agricultural livelihoods that are resilient to shocks and risks is central to attain and secure development gains, medium-term outcomes and long-term development goals,” he said.
The discussion took place on the second day of the AGRF Summit, which runs until Friday September 10, 2021. So far, scientists, farmers, government officials and heads of development organizations have engaged in themed sessions around the future of Africa’s agri-food systems.
Some of the resolutions from the Summit will inform the continent’s presentation at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York from September 23, 2021.