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Pause climate policy and address Africa food crisis


Ideas & Debate

Pause climate policy and address Africa food crisis


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 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 scare and unaffordable for millions.

Global climate change targets were set for good reasons but were agreed upon at 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 subsidy and 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. While the battlefields of war may be thousands of miles away in Ukraine, the fields of Kenya needs to be requisitioned to grow the foods that are no longer available from imports.

Perhaps the tragedy of Ukraine could be a stimulus for Kenya’s farmers to increase production and offer more homegrown produce. The Government can also help through subsidies and market interventions that ensure prices for locally grown commodities remain at parity with, or lower than import prices.

We could even mobilize the army to help with farm-to-market transportation. This will reduce wastage and ensure food gets to cities and towns without delay. New food storage depots could be set up by converting current buildings into vital food distribution centers.

We should be doing everything to ensure people have enough food in a time of war, even if Kenya is not at war. Every nation is affected by the conflict in Ukraine and Kenya and Africa looks set to take collateral damage in the form of a food crisis.

Unless we act now to feed ourselves, what we eat and the price we pay for it will always be determined by global events beyond Kenya’s control.

We have seen time and time again that any global shocks are felt more acutely by Africa, which is less resilient than other regions.

Whether it is the pandemic, climate change, food shortages, rising oil prices, rising food prices, vaccines, less fertilizer or more regulations from the global north, Africa always gets the fuzzy end of the lollypop.

Now is the time to strive to be self-sufficient; to be less dependent on the rest of the world. To grow more at home, manufacture more locally and support sales of locally produced goods through subsidy and higher taxes on imported goods that can be provided by Kenya.

Globalization can bring benefits to ordinary people when times are good, but as soon as there is a geopolitical crisis or a natural event such as the pandemic, the cost of being connected to the global economy is all too plain to see.

For too long we have helped grow the economies of countries around through importing produce that we could grow ourselves. Maybe now we can turn to expanding and supporting our own economy be growing local and buying local – with a little help from our leaders.

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.

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