Research and development are key to resilient food systems in Africa

Source: Lulama Ndibongo Traub, Thomas Jayne and Wandile Sihlobo, Bizcommunity, 2 August 2021, photo credit: Wasafiri Consulting

What will it take to build sustainable, resilient food systems in African countries? This was among the questions considered at the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit in late July. The summit, the first of its kind in this century, aims to identify bold, innovative actions, with measurable outcomes. These actions are needed to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals in what the UN has dubbed the “Decade of Action“.

African ministers of agriculture met before the summit to discuss the continent’s common position. Among the issues they tabled was using agriculture to reduce poverty, particularly for women and youth. We want to contribute to the African common position by flagging the importance of technical innovation and the role of agricultural research and development (R&D) in building the food systems the continent needs.

When agriculture grows, there are benefits across the board. Its extensive linkages with the off-farm stages of the agrifood system and non-farm sectors expand employment and livelihoods in the rest of the economy. High farm production growth in sub-Saharan Africa since 2000 has contributed to high overall economic growth and improvements in the welfare of most people in the region. But approximately 75% of Africa’s agricultural production growth resulted from area expansion and only 25% from yield improvements. This is not sustainable in the long run: 90% of Africa’s available arable land is located in eight countries. Many of these countries are fragile states.
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The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.