For Africa, food and water security have a major catalyst: the temperature. World leaders gathered in Egypt for COP27 – United Nations Climate Change Conference – as Africa would be the most threatened by the rising global temperature.
Recent events reinforcing the weak food and water security in Africa
Recent floods in Nigeria have caused the direct death of over 600 people. At the same time, the floods damaged and destroyed vast zones of farmlands, indirectly causing difficulties to hundreds of thousands of people. At the same time in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, one of the worst droughts in decades hit the region, resulting in 22 million people at direct risk of starvation.
The region most severely hit was Sub-Saharan Africa, where 37 out of 52 counties are suffering from high food insecurity. It is expected that the population of Africa by 2050 will have increased by 95%, which will put extraordinary pressure on its already fragile food and water infrastructure.
The most immediate action to take is to provide support to those affected by the latest disasters. We also need to address the drop in the amount of grain shipped from Ukraine due to the Russian blockade. The price and supply of food are especially vulnerable to climate change and international conflicts. International relations impact food security as Africa relies heavily on food import and external government interventions.
The impact they can have on the rest of the world
Aiding these territories is becoming more and more a self-preservation issue for the Northern Hemisphere as well. African countries will be the ones who take the brunt of food and water shortage, but it will inevitably adversely impact the rest of the world in form of migration pressure and supply chain disruptions. This would lead to surging macroeconomic effects such as slower economic growth. As domestic foods in the region are weather-sensitive, it means they are heavily reliant on imports (85% of food consumption are imports). This negates domestic stock, but any significant change in the African population poses a risk in affecting the food demand in the region. Weather events can also lead to higher food transportation costs. Then, eventually, foreign reserves are eroded which puts further pressure on exchange rates.
Along with these disruptions, warmer temperatures encourage different types of zoonotic diseases, carrying the risk within itself of a new global pandemic.
Attempts to relieve their issues
Promises made in Paris in 2015 – limiting rising global temperatures to 1.5C – should be followed up by actions. Building a food and water system to withstand any future climate shock will require a politically and economically stable environment and international cooperation.
The primary focus should be on increased agricultural productivity, improved crop storage systems, providing farmers with high-yielding seeds and fertilizers, and expanded access to groundwater. Early warning systems need to be upgraded as well such as weather systems, flood barriers etc. New and improved roads and railways are required for connecting farmers to food-scarce zones. According to research made regarding water by the African Ministers’ Council, the volume of groundwater in Africa is about 20 times that of rivers and lakes. While all these resources exist, in many drought-stricken regions, less than 5% of available water is being used. This will need further expansion to create a stable supply. If we combine this with investments in desalination plants, we could make these countries more drought-resistant. Some experts believe that an African country (Uganda for example) could increase its agricultural gross domestic product by 7% and lift 500,000 people out of poverty if the above proposed measures were implemented.
Although foreign governments often try to help in critical periods by intervening in agricultural production and food distribution, however, most programs do not work out which just weigh down on national budgets and pointlessly inflate food prices. However, if these efforts would be targeted and well-organized, they can lead to valuable aid and experience. Past the humanitarian aspect, this information can support research, and be the basis of developing infrastructure and resilient agricultural productivity.
The issue with current aids is that it aims to reduce the effects, instead of preventing them. The best way to solve Africa’s food and water crisis is to support the governments in developing their solutions, as they understand the local conditions more than any other country and can draw on these experiences. In 2009, at COP15 held in Copenhagen, many wealthy countries committed to investing 100 billion USD annually starting from 2020 into low- and middle-income countries.
- FINANCIAL TIMES (2022): “Africa’s fragile food and water security threatens us all” I https://www.ft.com/content/f3cda3a6-f4ee-4bc4-b512-d1f9f12925ec
- KEMOE L; et al (2022): “How Africa Can Escape Chronic Food Insecurity Amid Climate Change” I https://www.imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2022/09/14/how-africa-can-escape-chronic-food-insecurity-amid-climate-change
- DEVITT J. (2022): “This is the impact of flooding in Africa on food security” I https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/10/flooding-africa-food-security-climate/
- ICRC (2022): “Nothing to eat: Food crisis is soaring across Africa” I https://www.icrc.org/en/document/food-crisis-soaring-across-africa
- KRAY H; et al (2022): “Three challenges and three opportunities for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa” I https://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/three-challenges-and-three-opportunities-food-security-eastern-and-southern-africa