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Africa can increase food yield despite climate change challenges, ECA's Dione

By Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
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DURBAN, South Africa, December 6, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Africa has what it takes to quadruple food productions from area expansion and yield increase inspite of challenges posed by climate change, Josue Dione, Director of Food Security and Sustainable Development at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said in Durban yesterday.

Speaking at a side event on "Agriculture and Food Security in Africa", at the margins of the ongoing COP 17, Dione said using available pre and post harvest technologies as well as its vast natural resources, the continent can also effectively adapt to and mitigate climate change in agriculture.

"Strategies require first action to connect farmers to inputs and product markets through a value chain approach, private sector agro-input, agro processing, agri-business service as well as economies of scale and vertical coordination," said Dione.

He said this, in turn, would require investment in capacitating infrastructure, institution and conducive policies, which include investment codes, land policies and fiscal policies.

Such a strategy, he said, is in line with the Abuja Food Security Summit Declaration, and would result in an African Common Market, agreement on regional strategic commodities, creation of preferential public/private regional investment zones in agricultural input and commodity value chains while strengthening regional Centres of Excellence for agricultural research and development along the value chains of strategic commodities.

The Director said ECA, in partnership with the African Union Commission, and Food and Agriculture Organization, was assisting COMESA and ECOWAS to develop regional value chains of maize, rice and livestock products.

Research by the Stanford University Programme on Food Security and the Environment since the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, predicts that under optimal rainfed conditions, 65 percent of current maize growing areas in Africa will experience loss in yield with 1 degree Celsius of warming expected over the next ten years.

Under drought conditions, however, 75 percent of the areas can expect yield declines of at least 20 percent, according to the research findings.

"At the current rate of temperature increase, global average temperature will have increased by 1.5 degrees by 2050, making Africa lose 22 percent of it maize, 17 percent of its sorghum/millet, 18 percent of its groundnut and 8 percent of its cassava," said Dione.

This, he said, will result in significant hardship, reduction or elimination of livelihoods and serious disruption of food security across Africa.

About 52 percent of active labor force in Africa is employed in agriculture, earning more than 2 percent of the continent's GDP. Inspite of up to $50 billion in yearly food imports and $3 billion of food aid per year, 240 million Africans are still chronically hungry.

Africa's agriculture is notoriously under-invested and undercapitalized ...only 3.5 percent of arable land is irrigated and about 9 percent of world fertilizer is used in Africa.