By Judith Akolo
Global food security is facing multiple challenges impacting the vulnerable who include women and children in developing countries.
The Director in charge of Resource Security Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan Nishimura Yasuko while quoting the G7 Summit statement on global food security, said that multiple factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring energy prices, the climate crisis and shocks, biodiversity loss, land degradation, water security and armed conflicts have contributed to the global disruption and disorder in food systems and supply chains leading to the deterioration in global food security.
The leaders in their statement released at the Hiroshima Prefecture indicated that the aggression against Ukraine had drastically aggravated the global food security crisis. “We are committed to continuing our efforts to address pressing issues to improve global food security including through initiatives already launched by the G7 and relevant international organizations,” said the leaders in the statement.
Nashimura said during an interview at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices in Japan noted that the multiple factors threatening global food security are impacting most disproportionately the vulnerable people including women and children mostly in developing countries.
She notes that the Russian aggression against Ukraine has further exacerbated food security in developing countries, with the G7 Summit in its communique asking Russia to lift its measures that hinder the exports of Russian grain and fertilizers. “Given Ukraine’s essential role as a major exporter of food to the world, we are seriously concerned about the current and future impact of Russia’s deliberate disruption of Ukraine’s agricultural sector on food security in the most vulnerable countries,” says the G7 in the statement.
While quoting the Hiroshima Action Statement released by the G7 Summit, Yasuko calls for the need to put in place initiatives that help to contribute to stable food supply across the globe and more especially in the developing countries.
Among the solutions to the current global food security situation, Yasuko says there are short term, medium term and long term measures that need to be adopted to address the situation, which are contained in three pillars.
“ First, is realising zero hunger and delivering food and nutrition to those in need, Second is Building resilient, sustainable and productive agricultural and food systems bearing in mind climate adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation and Third pillar is the utilisation of technology and innovation in ensuring growth in agricultural production,” says Nashimura.
She notes that there is a need to look at the impacts of climate change on food systems and find ways of putting in place adaptation and mitigation measures that “can improve the sustainability of agricultural systems in a manner which increases production in order to realize resilient food agriculture systems.”
Among the measures that could be taken by individual countries, she notes, is utilization of domestic resources in a sustainable manner, putting in place systems that ensure compatibility and sustainability of agriculture and the utilization of modern innovation “in order to improve the sustainability of the agriculture systems,” says Nashimura.
She says several actions ought to be in place to address the challenge posed by climate change of food systems, and advises that use of knowledge and evidence base approaches by the relevant international agencies such as FAO and IFAD is necessary “in order to address climate shocks through promoting climate smart agriculture practices, adaptation of crops and livestock to climate change, utilising more of the traditional crops in individual countries.
With the G7 having agreed to support Africa’s food security agenda, Nashimura advises African states to begin to look at what works to aid in increasing agricultural production and hence realize food security adding that recurrent droughts in the Horn of Africa pose a major challenge to realising food security in the region.
The G7 committed to work both on the immediate response to the food crisis as well as commitment to long term needs to establish resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems, “improving local production and productivity as well as sustainability is a very important point of action,” she says.
Each local environment is different, she says “but if the right technology is used, then there would be a way of improving production,” adding that already Japan is assisting many African countries through the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) which is being implemented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) the implementing agency of Japanese Official Development Aid (ODA) for the purpose of socio-economic development, recovery and economic stability of developing regions.
According to Fumihiko Suzuki who is in charge of Agricultural and Rural Development at JICA, the Coalition for Africa Rice Development (CARD) being implemented by JICA aims to help African countries to double rice production, “as part of the goal of achieving food security on the continent.”
In an interview at the JICA headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Suzuki said the program is operating in the five regional economic communities and 32 countries in sub-Sahara Africa through the South South cooperation. In the first phase of the program between 2008 to 2018, “rice production increased from 14 million tons in 2008 to 28 million tons in 2018 and now aims to increase production from 28 million tons to 56 million tons by 2030,” said Suzuki.
He noted that Food security is becoming a more and more important issue in Africa with data showing that, the gap in production and consumption in sub-sahara Africa is widening.
“There are four main commodities that Africa imports a lot: Wheat, edible oils, sugar and rice,” says Suzuki and adds, “consumption of rice is increasing but production is increasing at a much lower rate, hence the need to peg the yawning gap in rice production.”
Suzuki expressed fear that while there was an increase in production from 14 million tons to 28 million tons between 2008 to 2018 on account of an increase in the area under cultivation, “achieving the 56 million tons by doubling 28 million tons by 2030 could face challenges owing to cultivation area that is becoming scarce due to environmental factors,” he says.
Suzuki is advising the countries where CARD is being implemented to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and instead use organic fertilizer that helps to replenish soil nutrients that then ensures more healthy crops. “In order to realize the increased production there will be need to increase the yield per acreage by increasing the amount of nutrients in the soil through use of organic fertilizer,” says Suzuki.
Among the countries in which rice production is increasing are Tanzania and Nigeria which he said could provide opportunities for benchmarking by other countries.