Agriculture is the main driver of economic development in Africa. It serves as the main source of income and employment as over 65% of jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa are agriculture-related. Though there is empirical evidence that higher agricultural productivity can positively impact poverty reduction by increasing rural incomes, reducing food prices in domestic markets, and generating economic opportunities in the non-farm sector, over 60% of rural populations in Sub-Saharan Africa still live in extreme poverty (i.e living on $1.25 or less a day). Approximately one in three people in Sub-Saharan Africa experience chronic hunger and are undernourished.
That is not to say there has been no progress in eradicating poverty Under the Millenium Development Goals (Goal 1- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), the world reduced the population living in extreme poverty by 47% in 74 countries. As of 2019-for the first time since the start of the SGDs-, more Africans have escaped extreme poverty (i.e. 367 people per day). According to the World Data Lab, by the end of 2020, 1 million Africans below the poverty line, will move above the poverty line. However, this growth is not rapid enough to achieve the sustainable development goal (SDG) 1 by 2030.
With many initiatives by the FAO and other humanitarian organisations, the world has made progress towards improving agricultural productivity. The 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report showed that there is an average annual increase of 1.63% in the output of crops and livestock with existing or fewer inputs. This implies that more food is being produced to feed everyone. Therefore, there should be a focus on food security and sustainable food systems for the future.
This year’s theme is Build back better. There is a need to balance our food systems to ensure that issues such as food loss and waste, food security, environmental degradation, loss of agro-biological diversity, and hunger are not overlooked. The COVID-19 pandemic encouraged this theme as it provided an opportunity for countries to adopt innovative solutions that are based on scientific evidence, to help improve food systems, making them more resistant to shocks.
How to support this agenda
Globally, 30-50 percent of food production goes to waste because of inefficient preparation or inadequate storage facilities. The United States is one of the biggest culprits for this and needs an agricultural land base that is 7 to 8 times larger than a land base in India to compensate for this waste. Households have to reduce bulk buying as this shopping method leads to more food waste. Also, there should be proper storage of fruits and vegetables to avoid premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce. You can consider separating foods that produce more ethylene gas from those that don’t to reduce spoilage. Alternatively, households with excess food could consider donating to food banks. In Ghana, there are about 7 food banks in Accra and Tema.
Governments should ensure that robust and resilient food system initiatives are implemented to withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, reduce hunger, and contribute towards a healthier global population.