Healthy ecosystems can help avoid food insecurity in Africa, UN-backed conference

26 August 2013

Strengthening ecosystems is key to helping local farmers in Africa adapt to climate change and ensuring that they produce enough food to meet people’s nutritional needs, participants decided at the end of an international United Nations-organized conference in Kenya.

The conference, convened by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), other UN agencies, Governments and partners, explored ecosystem-based approaches to enhance food security, ecosystem productivity and climate change adaptation in Africa.

Nearly 800 participants from more than 50 countries attended the conference in the capital city of Nairobi, agreeing that ecosystem-based adaptation provides flexible, cost effective, and broadly applicable alternatives for building robust food systems on less inputs and reducing the impacts of climate change.

In Uganda, for example, promotion of agro-forestry and conservation agriculture resulted in more-fertile soils and increased yields. Reducing the time and cost involved in preparing land for farming, gave local farmers more time to diversify their crops, rear livestock and increase the income and food security of 75,000 people.

Estimates suggest that food production may have to double by 2050 to meet the demands of changing diets and the projected nine billion citizens, UNEP noted.

According to FAO, Africa has 239 million undernourished people, representing nearly a quarter of the entire population.

Global food prices are expected to rise by 30 per cent for rice and possibly double for maize by 2050, according to figures cited at the conference, particularly due to projected climate change temperature rises during that time period.

This would be particularly worrying for Sub-Saharan Africa, participants noted, since about 60 per cent of the workforce farms, contributing an average of 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDPs) in those countries.


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