Farmers Simon Lokidongoi and Paul Ekai on drought hit land in north Kenya
Photo: Frederic Courbet/Panos Pictures/ActionAid
Climate change is here to stay and this means more disasters and droughts for communities across the globe, especially Africa.
Many parts of the world have witnessed the harsh effects of climate change and Africa has seen two major climate wars in less than a decade. When the continent was still mobilising resources for the crisis in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel became a new addition to the crisis, and the needs have risen.
When I was at the recent Africa UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Ministers’ conference in Congo-Brazzaville, it was clear to me that the region is far from finding a lasting solution to the challenge, despite its huge potential to feed itself.
A report on the Sahel crisis was presented to the ministers and President Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville asked the group for their support, but the room remained silent. Djibouti and other countries in the room provoked the call for support by calling for a solution from within the region, rather than calling for external help – but how can they expect this if they don’t step forward and take action?
Both the African Union and all the sub-regional groupings have consistently talked about Africa’s potential to feed itself, and the need for sub-regional and national food banks, but very little has been done to put these in place.
One group that offers hope and an immediate solution to Africa’s food crisis are the continent’s smallholder farmers. The majority of these farmers live hundreds of kilometres away from national capitals and markets, which means that their produce can often go rotten before it can be sold and they often have to accept prices way below market rates.
Yet if market access and expert advice were made available to them, this food could be transported to national and regional food banks for use during crisis periods.
Ultimately, much as everyone has a role to play in making Africa food secure, political will is the first step and the most important ingredient. The culture of looking outward for a solution is destroying Africa’s ability to feed itself. The phrase, ‘outsiders can help but it’s the insiders who do the job’ is particularly relevant when talking about Africa’s leadership on food security.
We need to be asking whether Africa is prepared and ready to respond to a crisis such as the one in the Sahel or the Horn of Africa, or will it continue to see lives lost when solutions are within reach?
The 19th African Union summit should be the best space and platform to answer these burning questions. It’s time to do the right thing, it’s time to act and be a united Africa that cares, a unity of nations that is food secure.