Tuesday, May 10, 2011

food for thought

Agriculture is the mainstay of most African economies and experts insist that Africa has what it takes to produce food for its population of about one billion people and even export food to other regions of the world. The continent, which is blessed with good weather and geographical conditions, has the capacity to produce food to feed its inhabitants, all things being equal. Only 4 percent of the cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is currently equipped for irrigation. Nearly 90 percent of African food is produced from rain-fed agriculture. However, United Nations World Food Program on Thursday said it fears crop production in Africa will get slashed by 50 percent in less than a decade due to climate change. Just in the next eight years rain fed agriculture in Africa will be reduced by 50 percent.”

It’s often said that Kenya has potential to produce enough food for its population. A large part of the country is arable. It has the memory of what has worked or failed in the past, a sizeable amount of research findings, and a robust human resource base to meet the challenges involved in food production.

"Conservation agriculture is the core of climate-smart agriculture for both mitigation and adaptation," said FAO Senior Officer Theodor Friedrich. "And it is worldwide, growing exponentially." CA integrates technology in agricultural production and environmental management through three basic practices: crop rotation, maintenance of soil cover, and minimum soil disturbance. While the first two methods promote diverse and healthy produce, the third reduces manual and mechanical tilling and plowing, significantly cutting cost and consumption of fossil fuel. Friedrich explains that this practice mitigates climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of fossil fuel, fertilizers, and other agricultural inputs. CA features adaptive technology, including a water infiltration system that adjusts to extreme weather conditions. In dry periods, it reduces the water requirements of crops by 30 percent, enhancing soil fertility to withstand extended droughts. During rainy periods, this method facilitates the course of rain water to prevent soil erosion and flooding.

Fish stocks in West Africa are declining drastically. And local fishermen are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their livelihoods or feed their families. The best fish ends up on European plates, while the rest is turned into animal feed or discarded as bycatch. One large trawler can carry 15 million meals’ worth of frozen fish to Europe while many Africans go hungry, unable to access the fish from their own waters. Local artisan fishermen in West Africa now find themselves competing against the largest of European trawlers. In one day, these massive vessels can capture the same amount of fish as thirty or forty traditional pirogue boats would catch in one year. These foreign fishing fleets then take their giant catch to ports far from Africa, making millions of dollars, while Africa's coastal communities struggle and grow poorer.

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