Professor Cheikh Mbow
Director of Future Africa, University of Pretoria

Africa is the continent most impacted by food insecurity. Millions suffer from inadequate quantity and quality of food every year, with children and women the most affected.

One of the big drivers of food insecurity in Africa is climate change. When extreme weather events such as flooding or extreme drought occur, large quantities of food produced by local communities are lost. This loss and damage are related to climate change and directly affect food security.

Another significant constraint to food security is land degradation. Soil is the first input for food production. The poor management of land has resulted in extensive land degradation in Africa, reducing the possibilities for smallholder farmers to sustain the quantity of yield needed every year to feed the growing population.

Despite the challenges, there are several potential levers for transformation which, if capitalised on, could lead to significant benefits in terms of food and nutrition security. Africa is the only continent which has two growing seasons a year. We have two summers – summer in the north and summer in the south. Every single year, we have the possibility to grow food the whole year round. Sixty percent of the global arable land is in Africa, and the continent also has a great deal of groundwater and energy resources. We have the capacity of women and a youthful population who can improve the food production in Africa. We are still importing food; however, we can become not only food sufficient but a net exporter of food to the rest of the globe.

Hear Professor Cheikh Mbow, Director of Future Africa (University of Pretoria), talk about the approach at the Institute to co-design domestic solutions for food and nutrition security.

At Future Africa, the goal is to link the users, who are the local farmers, with top-notch scientists to co-create solutions for improving food.

Future Africa is working to create transdisciplinary knowledge, because food security is not only about agronomic solutions. There are many other important factors to consider, including business development, entrepreneurship development, transformation of agricultural products, and use of natural products to improve the wealth and health of people in Africa. Future Africa supports transdisciplinary research by connecting universities across geographies and working with several experts through networking. We have a strong focus on empowering early- and mid-career researchers as well as young professionals with an appetite to create transformation in Africa. We support them in developing the necessary skills and mindset to be active agents of change.

Future Africa supports communities of practice, where people come together with different practitioners to co-create solid solutions for resilient agriculture in Africa. We do that by empowering policymakers and communities in their local areas to improve their lives and livelihoods.

Finally, a big interest at Future Africa is the use of neglected plants. Most high-level reports on food security are limited to a small number of crops, such as rice, maize, cassava, etc. The database Future Africa is building has identified over African plants that can yield quality, nutrition-dense foods.

We can transform African food security by leveraging all the possibilities we have in Africa. All the ingredients that we need to grow food in Africa are there. World Food Day is a call for African Action for Zero Hunger. It is within our reach to transform African food systems to achieve food and nutrition security.

This blog and associated vlog is published as part of a joint campaign for World Food Day led by the ARUA–UKRI GCRF Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) in partnership with the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the University of Leeds’ Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI), and the GCRF-AFRICAP Project. You can follow our campaign on Twitter @FSNetAFrica or visit our partners’ websites - FANRPAN, GFEI, and GCRF-AFRICAP.