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Africa losing 24 billion tons of fertile topsoil undermining agricultural development, production

The Director in charge of Agriculture, Food Security, and Environmental Sustainability at African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), Estherine Fotabong says cites unsustainable land and soil management practices.

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The high rate of land degradation and the associated decline in soil health is a major threat to Africa’s ability to build sustainable and inclusive food systems.

The Director in charge of Agriculture, Food Security, and Environmental Sustainability at African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD), Estherine Fotabong says Africa loses 24 billion tons of fertile topsoil each year, “due to unsustainable land and soil management practices.”

Speaking at the opening of the 14th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS) and the commemoration of the 19th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Partnership Platform, the AUDA-NEPAD Director said that 75% of the continent’s cultivated area is degraded. “If we don’t act with speed, more than half of the current arable lands will be unusable in the next two decades,” warned Fotabong.

She called for an urgent action to halt and reverse land degradation, “and restore the health of our soils, which is the bedrock of our food systems,” she said and added, “Restoring the health of degraded lands is critical for overall human development as land is a vital life-support system for livelihoods and ecosystems.

Fotabong said that the African Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit planned for 2024 is coming from the realisation by African Heads of State that soils are the bedrock of the food systems.

At the meeting with the theme: “Accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in the context of CAADP Commitments for Safer and Healthier Diets.” Fotabong called for the need to build resilient and inclusive food systems “for our continent is the most pressing challenge of our generation,” she said and added, “As we speak, more than 250 million Africans are hungry and changing this picture has to be our greatest priority as a people.”

The Director in charge of Agriculture, Food Security and Environmental Sustainability at AUDA-NEPAD, says hunger and malnutrition on the continent is likely to worsen in the  due to the effects of Covid 19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war saying the two are shocks that have devastated the fragile food systems in recent years.

Forabong warned that the deepening climate crisis that threatens food production systems, natural ecosystems that are critical to the resilience of food systems, key infrastructure, and the lives and health of millions of people, “Our current investments in adaptation and resilience building are still way short of what is required to win the fight against climate change,” she said and added, “Africa faces a dangerous cocktail of mutually reinforcing crises that are converging into a ‘perfect storm’.

She called for an urgent need to accelerate the implementation of CAADP, the continental framework for agricultural transformation and agriculture-led growth in order to achieve the ambitious targets on food and nutrition security as outlined in the Malabo declaration.

The meeting comes at a time when the continent is marking two decades of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) which was established in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003, with the Malabo Declaration on Agricultural Transformation coming into effect in 2014.

Judith Akolo
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