The Ukrainian crisis should awaken the African conscience of food independence

Far from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Africa is paying the price. Communities are going hungry as food prices continue to rise, making an already worse situation aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Africa depends on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine, but with the current crisis, which has closed ports in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, the supply chain is disrupted. Aid agencies say the blocked supplies are worsening the hunger situation in Africa where some areas have been hit by persistent drought, locust infestation and insecurity.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), food supply disruptions resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian war face a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, particularly wheat, maize and corn. soybeans imported from both countries.

African leaders are now engaged in urgent appeals to Western countries and Russia to at least release grain and grain supplies.

African Union chief and Senegalese President Macky Sall recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to ask him to help get Ukraine’s wheat out of the ports of Odessa.

Sall also spoke to the Europeans to stop sanctioning Russian wheat and fertilizers because Africa needs them.

Antonio Querido, a Food and Agriculture Organization envoy to Uganda, told Xinhua that while all these calls are short-term measures, the silver lining of the Ukraine crisis is the signal. that Africa should work to be self-sufficient in food.

“Times are tough, this crisis is affecting everyone, it is affecting our continent. When it comes to the agricultural sector, we have to see this global crisis as an opportunity,” Querido said.

“Now is the time for us too to look for ways to be self-sufficient to feed our people. In Uganda you still have more than 60% of intact arable land, enough water, so there is an opportunity for us “, he added.

The UN envoy argued that African countries need to identify products they can invest in and start producing at a scale that can meet the continent’s food shortages.

“We have one of the largest continents, our continent has 60% of the world’s arable land, it is the continent where one of the largest rivers is located, and our market also has 1.4 billion people” , did he declare.

“We need more investment in agriculture, mechanization so that we produce more, to be efficient and to be able to compete with others,” he said.

The AfDB last month announced a US$1.5 billion facility to benefit 20 million African farmers, who will receive certified seeds and technology to rapidly produce 38 million tonnes of food. This, according to the bank, would represent a $12 billion increase in food production over two years.

The two-year emergency phase, according to the AfDB, will be followed by a five-year acceleration phase aimed at weaning Africa off wheat and other food imports. The five-year phase will provide seeds and inputs to 40 million farmers under the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program.

Some African countries have begun their individual journeys of reducing dependence on food imports.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in his annual state of the nation address on Tuesday, said the country was struggling to boost agricultural production.

Museveni said the country is moving away from reliance on rain-fed agriculture towards irrigation. He said that apart from working on mega irrigation projects, the government is working with the private sector to ensure the production of solar-powered irrigation pumps that can be used in villages.

Christi C. Elwood