Africa may face further food shortages if the farming industry does not meet population growth over the coming years, says Global Harvest Initiative report.
The survey entitled Measuring Global Agriculture Productivity (the GAP Report) – conducted annually since 2010, by the private sector group which is sponsored by numerous global businesses – reveals that unless improved productivity measures are introduced in Sub-Saharan Africa, the food demand gap will increase year-on-year to 2050 as the population grows and the food production industry does not display similar increases.
The report projects a food demand increase for Sub-Saharan Africa of 2.83 percent each year between 2000 and 2030– due to a more than doubling of the population over the period in question as compared to 2000 figures -, citing the region as having the highest population expansion rate in the world. However, currently, the farming business in Africa is not set to meet these demand increases.
There are a number of ways to increase agricultural productivity in the region – the agriculture industry accounting for the employment of two-thrids of Sub-Sharan Africa’s economically active population -, the report concludes. Methods include sustainable intensification of agricultural land, youth employment in the agricultural sector, and expansion of producing lands. The report cites a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) prediction that 25 per cent of food supply growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is to be achieved through increasing the amount of farmed land.
However, the report also finds that a key element necessary in order to meet food demands over the coming period is the implementation of new technologies in the Sub-Saharan region, technologies that are in particular adaptable to the small-scale farming businesses that are prevalent in the region. Such new innovations should focus on improving farming practices, and should implement systems for better food storage and distribution in the region.
The findings for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, are somewhat less damning, with the survey projecting food demand increases of 2.4 per cent until 2050.
The MENA countries have so far been achieving an average productivity increase of 1.9 per cent over the past ten years. However, this will not be sufficient to meet the growing food demand gap.
In the MENA region, the underlying problems are different than in Sub-Saharan Africa – the report pointing to the fact that the region imports over half of its food supplies as a major reason for improving food production in the region. The increase in water scarcity in the area will also cause difficulties and requires attention – the report suggesting further exploration in the farming sector of water use efficiency, irrigation methods, and the implementation of drought-resistant crops.