The two greatest challenges facing the world today are malnutrition and climate change, and it is going to require a concerted approach from science and society to deal with them, according to Dr Lindenwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).
Dr Sibanda was a keynote speaker at a special international meeting of the Third Global Conference of Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD) in Johannesburg this week, hosted by the South African Research Council and organised by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and CGIAR.
Some 27 million children in Africa suffer from stunted growth because of malnutrition. Nutrient-sensitive investment is urgently needed. Climate change is also a critical issue for the continent, affecting crop yields and productivity. For each one degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by five percent. “We in Africa depend on agriculture and cannot afford a decline in our already compromised productivity.”
Dr Sibanda described climate smart agriculture as an approach that sustainably increases productivity, resilience, reduces or removes greenhouse gases and helps achieve national food security and development goals. Moves were under way by the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance to roll out the approach to six million families by 2021.
Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium, also emphasized that challenge for agriculture in Africa is to become “climate smart”, especially given its vulnerability to climate events such as droughts and floods. It is vital that farmers, development agencies, governments and the scientific and agricultural sectors come together to come up with innovative and sustainable solutions to these critical agricultural issues.
“We don’t have long to transform our food systems to become sustainable and provide healthy diets for all. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals we must step up our efforts in agri-food research and innovation,” comments Dr Rijsberman.
The GCARD3 Global Event has brought together more than 500 representatives from farmers’ organisations, science and research institutes, government, the private sector and civil society to discuss a range of issues linked with food and nutrition security, the roles of women and young people in agriculture, and farming as a sustainable business.
“Following a year-long consultation process, through 20 national and five regional consultations, this conference convened major players in science and society to determine how the global agricultural research community can best respond to farmers’ needs,” Dr Rijsberman continues, “it is imperative to engage in this process to listen and learn from farmers, governments and other stakeholders, to ensure that our research is well aligned with the priorities of our partners.”
Climate change, land degradation, and the devastating effects of drought mean that more investment in agri-food research and innovation is required to increase yields on limited land. This intensification will have to be done without damaging the environment, and while preserving natural ecosystems.
“There is huge potential for agriculture to improve food and nutrition security, and create economic growth, but it’s a delicate balancing act, and success can only be achieved through stakeholders working together towards the same objectives,” Dr Rijsberman said.
Source: CGIAR Consortium