(part 2 in our series covering the CNBC Africa panel discussion on the importance of technology in improving food security in Africa)
Given that as much as 40 percent of agricultural output goes to waste in Africa due to inadequate transport and storage, the need for investment in science, technology and education is imperative.(1)
“We need to think of science and technology in a broad sense that encompasses everything from the use of enhanced seed varieties to the correct agronomic skills, access to finance and even something as simple as no-till farming techniques that help keep organic matter in the ground where it is needed,” said Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer during a panel discussion that aired on CNBC Africa on August 20. “The other crucial thing is to adapt global technology to local needs. Although science provides universal answers, solutions must be local so as to account for variations in climate, soils, cultural traditions and distribution infrastructure.”
Investing in South African Farmers
Pioneer has committed R20 million (South African Rand) over five years to assist smallholder farmer development in South Africa. In November 2012, Pioneer established a collaborative agreement with the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) to work together with rural communities and other stakeholders to develop programmes addressing the challenges faced by small-scale and developing farmers in order to increase their overall farm productivity, profitability and food security. Since the beginning of the collaboration, Pioneer has invested R500 000. Limpopo is a key province for agricultural development in South Africa and its provincial government is supporting several initiatives to foster food security and self-sufficiency among emerging farmers.
Schickler said that while new technology is typically embraced in telecommunications, transport and healthcare, it is often regarded with skepticism when applied to agriculture. The result is that many African nations find themselves perpetuating less productive farming techniques and missing out on opportunities to improve household and national food security.
Lindie Stroebel, manager for Economic Intelligence at Agribusiness Chamber, told the CNBC Africa panel that the failure to embrace technological advances in agriculture is one reason why African crop yields are significantly lower than those of advanced economies that have adopted new farming technologies. Although Africa has 35 million hectares (or 86 million acres) of land available for maize production, average grain yields on the continent are less than 2 tons per hectare, about one-third of what is achieved in other developing regions and only one-fifth of yields in developed countries.
(1) Source: Global Harvest Initiative Symposium, Capturing the Full Value of the Supply Chain: Reducing Postharvest Waste, September 2009.
The South Africa Smallholder Development Project can help improve Food Security.
(part 1 in our series covering the CNBC Africa panel discussion on the importance of technology in improving food security in Africa)
Africa could emerge as a global breadbasket provided an enabling agricultural environment is fostered, said Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer. Africa has vast untapped potential to boost its agricultural output if governments and other stakeholders on the continent capitalize on their nations’ natural resource endowments by training smallholder farmers on improved agricultural practices and technologies.
“Africa’s abundant resources are a great foundation on which to build a sustainable agricultural sector and if the correct policies are implemented there is every reason to believe that the future of food security on the continent is very bright,” said Schickler during a panel discussion that aired on CNBC Africa on August 20. “With vast tracts of arable land, excellent weather, a youthful population and some of the fastest growing economies in the world, the stars are aligned for an African agricultural revolution.”
Also participating on the panel were Lindie Stroebel, manager of economic intelligence at Agricultural Business Chamber, Dr. Norman Maiwashe, senior researcher at the Agricultural Research Council, and Larry Umanna, country manager, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).
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Released early in July 2013, the Global Food Security Index, shows Sub-Saharan African nations made progress this past year. The top three most improved Sub-Saharan countries — Ethiopia, Botswana and Niger — rose an average of eight places in the Index. Improvements were attributed to greater food availability and income growth. Of the 10 countries whose scores improved the most, five were in Sub-Saharan Africa, including two of the top three.
As a part of its commitment to food security, DuPont commissioned the development of the Global Food Security Index to address the need for specific metrics to illustrate what food security looks like country by country and globally. Developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the annual Global Food Security Index is a first-of-its-kind ranking tool to comprehensively measure food security and monitor the ongoing impact of agriculture investments, collaborations and policies in 107 countries – 28 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“As we collectively focus on helping Africa to feed itself, the Global Food Security Index’s data and insights provide a roadmap for NGOs, policy makers, academics and community leaders to identify critical food security issues and make better informed decisions that address country-specific needs,” said Pamela Chitenhe, DuPont Pioneer director – Africa.
2013 AFRICA KEY FINDINGS
While the average 2013 Global Food Index Score remained flat (53.5 percent versus 53.6 percent in 2012), some trends emerged from the year-on-year comparisons that shed light on the stagnant figure:
- No region’s score improved dramatically, but Sub-Saharan Africa showed the biggest gain, climbing by under one point. Sub-Saharan African nations made progress this past year, with the top three most improved sub-Saharan countries rising an average of eight places in the index. The three most improved countries — Ethiopia, Botswana, and Niger — improved their ranks largely owing to greater food availability and income growth particularly important drivers.
- South Africa is the highest rated Sub-Saharan African country with an overall ranking 39 out of 107 countries. Overall strengths include nutritional standards, its relatively lower incidence of the proportion of population under the global poverty line, and its relatively high sufficiency of supply of food. Its challenges include gross domestic product per capita, low public expenditure on agricultural R&D, and minimal food safety net programmes.
- Urbanization helped to improve food security in emerging markets. Sierra Leone ranked at the top of this year’s new urban absorption capacity indicator, which measures the capacity of a country to support the food-needs of its growing cities. Real GDP in the country grew nearly four times faster than urbanization in the last three years, suggesting the country may have the resources to support new urban populations, through developments such as urban farming.
- Food affordability is a greater challenge than availability or quality throughout most of the African countries featured in the Index
- The most food insecure countries ranked are in Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo ranks 107 out of 107 countries for affordability and quality and safety in their category score, ranking 103 out of 107 countries for availability.