A new report has called on African countries to give priority to sustainable farming practices in their national policies and budgets to ensure food and nutrition security and build resilience against climate shocks.
The report by the Global Alliance for the Future of Food warns that the promotion of industrialised food systems at the expense of environment-friendly agricultural production systems like agroecology is aggravating biodiversity loss, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.
“The industrialised food system is one of the greatest stressors to the health of the planet, causing 80 percent of biodiversity loss and generating almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Alternatively, agroecology, regenerative practices and indigenous knowledge are avenues that can lead to sustainable food systems and repair the relationship between people and nature,” the alliance says.
“However, the evidence supporting these practices, although abundant, is not prioritised in government policies or budgets, due to the limited frames of traditional analysis. Scepticism ends up holding back the urgent transformation of food systems.”
The report is compiled from studies of agroecology practices and programmes in Kenya, Malawi and Senegal.
The agricultural sector is the largest contributor of Kenya’s GDP and employs the highest population.
In 2022, the economy is projected to stabilise at 6.0 percent supported by recovery in agriculture, industry and services sectors.
However, globally it is already one of the economic sectors with the largest environmental impact.
In line with growing population, global demand for food and changes in dietary habits, there has been additional pressure on agricultural activities, making them unsustainable.
Global Alliance for the Future of Food is calling for better practices such as efficient application of fertilisers and better manure management without causing any food shortage.
A study of the Soil, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) programme in Malawi showed that the agroecological practices used by farmers have increased household food security and nutrition.
The report also seeks to debunk the notion that indicators used in traditional agriculture such as yield per hectare or scalability are insufficient to prove the capacity of agroecology to feed the community through sustainable food systems based on equity and not just large-scale food production.
Another study done in Senegal found that agroecology was as productive as conventional agriculture once soil fertility is restored.
The Kenyan pastoral system of leaving the grazing land to regenerate and the government's move to secure customary land tenure rights have been cited as one of the practices aimed at enhancing sustainable natural resource management.
The report cautions that countries will be unable to respond to the major global challenges if they do not take into account such evidence in their decision-making about the future of food and solutions.
“Agroecology, regenerative approaches, and indigenous foodways are systemic solutions that are already delivering positive health and nutrition outcomes, a sense of purpose and dignity, social justice and climate action, across Africa and for millions of people worldwide,” says Lauren Baker, senior director of programmes at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.
“With this new material in hand, donors and researchers alike will be able to leverage the transformative power of agroecology, indigenous and regenerative practices and accelerate change at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
The report coincides with the proposal by Kenya’s Treasury in its 2022/2023 budget statement to issue Sh147 million for the Climate Smart Agricultural Productivity Project and Sh850 million to enhance drought resilience and sustainable livelihood.
About Sh1.5 billion will be given for the small-scale irrigation and value addition project.
The food and nutrition sector will receive Sh46.7 billion in the budget.
The initiatives are aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and enhancing resilience to climate change risks in targeted smallholder farming and pastoral communities in Kenya, and support smallholder farmers to sustainably produce and market various commodities.
“As part of the Big Four Agenda, the government is implementing measures and interventions to achieve food and nutritional security for all Kenyans. These measures include: supporting large-scale production of staple food; expanding irrigation schemes; increasing access to agricultural inputs; and supporting small-holder farmers to sustainably produce and market commodities,” Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said.