DAR ES SALAAM VICE-PRESIDENT Dr Philip Mpango has outlined four critical areas to consider in transforming food systems in Africa to end hunger and foster economic growth.
Opening Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 in Dar es Salaam yesterday he said the key area would be to harness existing scientific knowledge as well as employing multi-sectoral development approaches.
He said despite the many successes reaped in attaining the food security, there are still some unresolved challenges, especially low production and productivity.
“The State of Food Security and Nutrition Report of July 2023, one in five people in Africa is going hungry — that is more than twice the global average. The number of people experiencing hunger is projected to rise by more than 22 million in 2023, with food import bills in the region estimated at 75 billion US dollars (AfDB 2023),” said Dr Mpango
He said such a looming food deficit, coupled with rising import bills and a wide range of nutritional challenges, undermine regional output growth and the continent’s drive towards Agenda 2063: “The Africa we want”.
“Like many other countries, Tanzania remains vulnerable to adverse effects of climate change, pest outbreaks and soil degradation. Other challenges include limited access to right technologies, underfunding of scientific research and limited value addition,” said Dr Mpango.
“Inadequate financing of food value chains is also still a major constraint, mainly due to high cost of borrowing for the agriculture sector. Additionally, women and youth tend to be the most financially excluded segments of the population.”
The VP expressed optimism that the above challenges can be resolved with transformative ideas from the summit, indicating necessary steps which can help the continent to reap high on its food systems.
He said by harnessing the existing scientific knowledge such as indigenous technology, will help the continent to produce and process enough food for its people and for the global markets.
He called upon African governments to take requisite measures to provide small scale farmers with affordable inputs, knowledge, skills and finance to enhance productivity along food value chains.
“We also need to scale up digitalisation and financing of scientific research. We must also appreciate that our youth and women are central to our food systems and need to harness their growing numbers and ensure they benefit from their sweat and innovativeness,” he noted.
He observed the need to make agriculture enticing to the younger generation through the use of modern technology, easy access to land, start-up capital and markets targeting activities like horticulture which pay off relatively quickly.
Similarly, Dr Mpango singled out the need to put an end to exploitative practices to farmers by enforcing the use of standard weights and measures as well as banning forward market practices to protect farmers.
He revealed that Tanzania has successfully overcome such malpractices in meat, rice and beans value chains but still need to extend it to other agro produce.
“I, therefore, urge African countries to honour the regional trade arrangements, in particular the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), by complying with trade protocols and removing non-tariff barriers (NTBs),” said the VP.
Dr Mpango stated that the growth of private sector and its success in regional and global markets hinge on supportive policies.
He, however, advocated for peace and security as important prerequisite for a functioning food system, indicating that millions of displaced people and refugees in Africa and in the world have had their lives and food production capacities disrupted.
Convene under the theme: “Recover, Regenerate, Act: Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation,” he said this was a veritable test of the continents individual and collective resolve to go beyond lofty words and translate them into urgent concrete actions, to foster food systems transformation, capitalising on our vast land resource, demographic dividend and a strong, dynamic force of African women.
On the other hand, the VP noted strategies taken by Tanzania to arrive at an inclusive, sustainable and resilience food system such as scaling up its budget for agriculture by about 70 per cent, over the last two years, from 120 million US dollars in 2021/2022 to 397 million US dollars in 2023/24 in order to catalyse agriculture and food system transformation.
Such initiatives involve the Building a Better Tomorrow: Youth Initiative for Agribusiness (BBT-YIA), policies and strategies supportive of the food system and among others.
Agriculture Minister, Mr Hussein Based viewed that the world is projecting nine billion people in the near future, threatened by environmental challenges.
“Africa is the youngest continent with an average age of 20 years-old with over 65 per cent land which has not been utilised.
“The future in the sustainability of the world will only happen if the African Continent and African leaders play a greater role to complement each other instead of limiting one another for the utilisation of the available resources,” he said.
For his part, Zanzibar Minister for Blue Economy and Fisheries, Mr Suleiman Masoud Makame stressed the need for more investment in providing smart knowledge and innovation in food systems, noting that no solution would be effective without availability of water and healthy soil. The same goes to the need to protect marine environment and biodiversity.