Leaders calls for integration of growing population and landscapes in Africa

A conference in Nairobi has leaders calling for better food security and environment services in Africa. Agricultural production must increase by 70 percent in order to feed people in Africa, according to one United Nations official. 

Rebecca Vassie/AP/File
A customer eats a bowl of chicken soup at a food stall, frequented by transport operators, on the edge of a bus terminal in the capital Kampala, Uganda. Agricultural production must increase by 70 percent in order to feed people in Africa, according to one United Nations official.

The “Landscapes for People, Food and Nature in Africa” conference has kicked off in Nairobi with major players calling for harmonization and integration of people living within the landscapes, with respect to the growing population.

According to Richard Munang, the Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator, Regional Office for Africa at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), one of the greatest challenges the world is facing today is how to feed the growing population, which is estimated to hit the nine billion mark by 2050.

And according to Tony Simons, the Director General – World Agroforestry Centre this presents a problem which must be solved now.

“It is true and we all know that there is a problem. But every time you will hear leaders in Africa say – we have a problem, we have a problem and we have a problem. But looking at Martin Luther King Jr 50 years ago, he did not wake up and say ‘oh my God, I had a nightmare,’ he said – look, I have a dream, and this is my dream,” said Simons.

He challenged the land stewards, the sub-district managers and governments to create the future they want by saying, this is our dream for the next 30 or 40 years, and then start creating the enabling environment to achieve that dream.

“The time for dialogue is over. Now what we need is action, and action, and nothing but action,” added Simons.

In practice, according to Munang, feeding the people means that agricultural production must increase by 70 percent, despite the scorching droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel that have lead to food insecurity and ill health among the people.

“The livelihoods and human health are all dependent upon a climate-resilient environment,” said the UNEP officer.

“With the challenge in Africa for integration of food security, ecosystem services, biodiversity, climate, water and much more, there is need to envision landscapes that will fulfill all these needs,” Munang told the conference.

He pointed at a scenario where natural habitat areas provide sources of food for people, while farmlands support wild biodiversity, and where the land provides resources that help people be resilient in the face of climate change.

This includes implementing a “full picture” or landscape approach, including terracing, agroforestry, local varieties, bank stabilization, watershed management, and agroforestry, among many others.

One of the approaches according to Kwesi Atta-Krah, the Director – CGIAR Research Program on Integrated System for the Humid Tropics, is to embrace Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), which addresses adaptation to Climate Change and also contributes towards mitigation.

Atta-Krah also called for a CSA-Landscape, which means a landscape carrying a mosaic of CSA systems, in harmony with other natural resources and land management options.

The conference brings together leading minds from African government, research, civil society and the private sector. They will put together an action  plan to respond to the critical challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and rising food demand. The decisions taken at the conference will feed directly into major initiatives for action and investment already being planned in Africa.

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