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Put food first for Africa

As the war in Ukraine chokes off exports of wheat and prices spike, a food crisis in Africa that may see food riots and millions go hungry seems imminent. With the pandemic still disrupting everything, Africa is bracing for yet another blow to its food supply, exacerbated by rising oil prices, climate change, and the lingering impact of the global economic crisis of 2008.

As well as food shortages, the war in Ukraine is also creating a shortage of fertilizer as much of the world’s supply comes from Russia. This supply issue is compounded by pressure to cut back on vital fertilizer use in order to meet climate change targets, set by Global North leaders from outside Africa. Africa needs fertilizer now more than ever to keep its soil healthy and output of food crops high, so the continent can feed itself as imports become scarce and unaffordable for millions.

Global climate change targets were set for good reasons but were agreed upon in very different times. Addressing the food crisis must not replace the climate crisis, but there is a humanitarian need to adjust priorities temporarily and do everything possible to mitigate the impact on food security caused by the flock of black swan events impacting Africa.

Fertilizer production locally should be accelerated, and Africa’s farmers should be helped through subsidies or affordable finance measures to increase fertilizer use in order to boost crop yields. Greater use of technology, such as pesticides and advanced seeds should also be incentivized and supported. As much land as possible should be planted urgently with advanced seeds in properly fertilized soil, to build local crop production.

A determined and urgent combination of political leadership, support from the global community, plus the latest agricultural technology could have a huge impact on food security and nutrition levels, helping Africa to fulfill its potential to feed itself and then the world.