On Africa Day, we find that there is so much to celebrate Africa for. The continent is rich with diverse culture and abundant natural resources, including gold, diamonds, copper, crude oil, forests, rivers and so much more. However, the richest resource of my continent is its youth. Almost 60% of Africa’s population is aged below 25 with over 200 million youth living in sub-Saharan Africa. This active population has the potential to contribute massively to the food systems sector as about 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land can be found on the continent. The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2017 also shows that more than 70% of the African population is in the agricultural sector. This and other factors have led many experts to conclude that agriculture is one of the key ways Africa can grow inclusive economies and create employment for the youth.
"We must not relent in our effort to transform food systems for the benefit of everyone and build stronger, resilient and more sustainable food systems.” - Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA and Special Envoy to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit
“Today, the agricultural sector is responsible for 65% of Africa’s employment, 35% of its GDP and 75% of its internal trade. The continent’s smallholder farmers (80% of the total population) are vibrant and inventive. Yet hundreds of millions of Africans go to bed hungry every night, imports dominate our markets, and farmers cannot access the seeds and fertilizers they need. Nor can they always get their goods to market or add value to their products to make a profit. A huge opportunity is being wasted.”
- H.E Hailemariam Desalegn Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Chair of the Board of Directors of AGRA
Agriculture, like other sectors, has faced gender disparity for a long time with the lack of accurate data failing to paint a clear picture of the proportion of women engaging in agriculture. For quite some time, there was a myth that claimed women accounted for 60 to 80 percent of global food production but only owned 2 percent of the world’s land. This myth was discredited by Agnes Quisumbing and collaborators who carried out various gender-specific studies and found that “the proportion of land controlled by women in Africa, south of the Sahara is closer to 22 percent.”
Seven East African countries have been plagued by a deadly desert locust invasion exposing the already “severely food insecure” region to a possible humanitarian crisis. This is the worst invasion in the region in the last 25 years and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is appealing to donors to raise $76 million to control the invasion. The $76 million only represents the amount required to control the pest and does not account for harvest losses and other impacts. If not well managed, the figure could multiply. Between 2003 and 2005, the world experienced a major locust plague that cost more than half a billion dollars to control and more than $2.5 billion in harvest losses.
Preparations for the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4) kicked off on March 4 with the Fourth Open-Ended Meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) negotiating over 30 resolutions which will be presented to the assembly for adoption. The theme of UNEA4 is ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges & Sustainable Consumption and Production.’ The three focus areas are: environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management, including sustainable food systems, food security and halting biodiversity loss; life-cycle approaches to resource efficiency, energy, chemicals and waste management; and innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change.