Embrace modern farming to fight food insecurity, East Africa told
The Food and Agriculture Organisation considers East Africa a food deficit region meaning that the bloc does not produce enough to feed its population.
Early this year, Uganda and Kenya were among 24 countries, listed by FAO, where sections of the population – mainly in arid and semi-arid lands – were experiencing severe food shortages. Uganda is already among the ten countries in Africa with the fastest growing populations, with a fertility rate of 6.2 children per woman.
The total population of the East African Community is 143.5 million, but by 2025, the region will be hosting an extra 40.8 million people, meaning the five countries will be required to produce more food.
“The region will not only be required to produce enough food for its growing population but also ensure that is nutritious and accessible to all at any given time. This is what self-sufficiency in food production means,” says agricultural economist George Mwangi.
According to FAO, food security only exists “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Food insecurity ranges from famine to periodic hunger to uncertain food supply. Hunger has been a major constraint on the region’s immediate and long-term economic, social and political development. East Africa spends millions of dollars every year importing food to fill the production gap.
There are several reasons why self-sufficiency in food production has remained elusive in the region. According to FAO, East Africa is facing a high level of land degradation.
The latest study, conducted by the Montpellier Panel, comprising agricultural, trade and ecology experts from Europe and Africa, supported this assertion, warning that the continent’s crop yields could decline further due to reduced soil fertility as a result of land degradation.
“In Africa, 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of forests are already damaged,” the panel says.
As a result, the study adds, the average yield of cereals like rice and wheat in sub-Saharan Africa has remained low compared with other regions at about one tonne per hectare, while in India, it is about two-and-a-half tonnes, and in China it is more than three tonnes per hectare.