Despite several policy initiatives put in place, some African countries have a long way to go in achieving UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) by the year 2030.
A 2018 UN report revealed that 66 million primary school-aged children attend school hungry in developing countries.
Sadly, 23 million of these children are from Africa. Despite this disheartening statistic, African governments can implement practical agricultural practices to guarantee sustainable food production.
To begin with, African governments can start by implementing resilient strategies to ensure that farmers are guaranteed a ready market, as well as fair and attractive prices for their products. Such government initiatives can rapidly curb unethical farming practices, since the most farmers can predict the future profits of crop sales.
Many farmers in Africa are tempted to use unethical farming techniques to rapidly increase crop production to earn more profit. Aside the usual problem of applying excessive amounts of fertilizer, some farmers add all sorts of chemicals to boost crop yield.
For example, calcium carbide is sometimes used to quickly ripen fruits. However, this chemical is extremely hazardous to the human body because it is a major component used in the production of fireworks.
Such chemicals could pose a major health risk to the continent if nothing is done to curb its usage. It is therefore imperative that farmers are guaranteed fair and attractive prices for their products to dissuade them from such practices.
Additionally, if African governments can ensure that crop production is demand-driven, farmers are protected against financial risks that emanate from droughts and floods which are so prevalent on the continent.
To minimize post-harvest losses, African governments should help in the construction of storage facilities such as silos and other storage units. Most farmers within Africa suffer great post-harvest losses due to their inability to afford silos to store their grain.
Moreover, fish farmers and livestock farmers often sell their products at very cheap prices because of the fear that their produce may get rotten due to their inability to afford cold storage facilities. Provision of these facilities will help ameliorate the conditions of these farmers.
Furthermore, various incentives must be put in place to make farming attractive to the African youth. It has been obvious over the years that most young Africans consider farming as an occupation for school dropouts or the uneducated section of the population.
Conversely, the youth in advanced countries have no problem taking up farming as an occupation because they are given adequate incentives and tools for the job.
Facilitating access to land and credit is a crucial step in encouraging African youth to take up agriculture as an occupation. Without a doubt, financial institutions rarely avail credit facilities to young people as they are considered a higher risk than adults due to lack of experience.
Therefore, the onus lies on African governments to create incentives to encourage public and private financial institutions to dedicate an adequate portion of their loan portfolio to budding farmers.
Revising the curriculum in agricultural courses at the primary, secondary and tertiary level could also encourage African youth to consider agriculture as a future career. The curriculum can include content on the diverse types of farming, how to grow high-value crops, keep livestock, and how to market their produce for export.
Likewise, agricultural theories should be linked to modern-day techniques for the youth to see the endless technological advances in the agricultural sector, which is in stark contrast with their opinion of the boring nature of agriculture. In addition to learning techniques, these students should be enlightened on decision-making processes, management, and leadership within the agricultural sector.
Furthermore, African governments need to facilitate land acquisition for cattle ranching, as well as enact and enforce laws to assign designated enclosed areas for cattle grazing. This will be a major incentive for middle-class private investors to engage in livestock farming, since they are assured of grazing banks with the aid of governments assistance.
Currently, some Africans are nonchalant about investing in livestock farming due to the problems associated with feeding their animals. With such downsides, people end up allowing their cattle to graze on other people’s farms thereby creating disputes over access to land for farming and grazing rights.
Such measures can help reduce conflicts between nomadic herdsmen and crop producers which have led to many deadly clashes over the years, and have sharply escalated in 2018 according to recent news reports.
Failing to enact strict grazing laws will yield counterproductive results, since crops will be destroyed and human lives will also be lost because of retaliatory conflicts. All these policy initiatives discussed in this article are not new to African governments, however, the lack of political will to enforce these policies seems to be the stumbling block.
Almost every newly elected president wants to shift away from agricultural projects started by their predecessors so that they are credited for bringing up innovative ideas. Leaders of each African country should set aside political differences and work in unison to achieve sustainable food production, so that Africa can achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.