InnoFoodAfrica fights climate change and COVID-19 pandemic challenges through sustainable food systems
by Raija Lantto | March 26 2021
Africa is a continent where food security-related paradoxes are most obvious. Food is increasingly imported, yet it has the largest agricultural land in the world. Climate change severely threatens agricultural productivity in arid and semi-arid regions driving rural poor people towards worsening hunger and malnutrition, particularly in small children.
Africa also has the youngest and fastest growing middle class concentrated in urban areas. Urbanisation correlates to unhealthy eating habits that lead to overweight and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, particularly among teenagers and the adult population.
Progressive climate change together with the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic is a double burden that requires timely, impactful and practical solutions to cushion Africa’s population from its adverse impacts.
According to the recent EU-Africa strategy published in 2020 by the European Commission: “Africa’s economic growth has the potential to accelerate and drive broader social and human development with new opportunities arising from digital transformation, the demographic dividend, low-cost renewable energy, the green transition and a low-carbon, blue and circular economy.” This is well in line with the vision and pronouncements of African leaders on joint R&D&I and business collaboration agenda, led by the African Union. And it is easy to agree with these high political level statements.
However, the chilling fact is that close to 100 million of the 1.2 billion African people live below the poverty line. This number is growing and is concentrated in Sub-Saharan African countries. Poverty is caused by food insecurity (among many other obvious external factors) due to depleting natural resources and decreasing agricultural productivity, but also by such internal factors as lack of knowledge. Ending poverty (SDG1), ending hunger (SDG2) and ensuring health and wellbeing (SDG3) must be top priorities in any African -European collaboration such as the InnoFoodAfrica project.
Food is a basic need for all people. It is also a basic human right. Compared to food, digital transformation or green transition for example that are stated in the EU-Africa strategy, may sound far-fetched but they are both needed to enable any tangible transition from the present inefficient farming system to a sustainable food system that will produce healthy food and respect planetary boundaries.
InnoFoodAfrica is committed to enable this huge undertaking through the partnership it has formed between European research organisations and those in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa. The Project is improving farming practices of climate-smart traditional crops together with farmers in such a way that they can adopt them directly to their everyday life.
InnoFoodAfrica is fighting malnutrition of children and over nutrition of urban adults by developing affordable, tasty and convenient foods made from cereals, fruits, pulses and vegetables with high nutritional value. InnoFoodAfrica is raising the present crop value chains to the next level, through which farmers will be active profit-gaining value chain operators in new food products that will be launched in wider markets.
Our focus is on women as they dominate smallholder farming but achieve lower productivity than men. In addition, wellbeing and educational level of women has a direct impact on child nutrition and health. Our focus is also on young rural people, as they need meaningful jobs to keep them at home rather than moving to cities to look for work. Finally, InnoFoodAfrica responds to the demand for sustainability by offering technological knowledge that adds value to crop side streams by converting their biomass to biopackagings for improved food safety, storage and transport.
In the blogs to come the development topics mentioned above, focusing on foreseen opportunities, encountered challenges and materialised outcomes, will be discussed in more detail.