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Global Food Systems

Global food systems are in disarray and impose increasing pressure on our planetary habitat. In this next decade of action for sustainable development, we need to think about food systems differently – taking into account the true values and full costs involved in getting food onto consumers’ plates.

As currently organized, food systems impose massive costs on human health (due to hunger, and foods that contribute to obesity and disease) costs on the environment today (due to area expansion and soil and water degradation, and costs on our children and grandchildren (for instance due to the food systems contribution to climate change and biodiversity loss). Building resilient and sustainable African food systems will require adopting policies and making investments that minimize the damage to human health, our environment, and to future generations. The food systems can and must become climate positive, and must not contribute about 30% to green-house gas emissions – as


To do so will require integration of modern science and local knowledge to promote food systems resilience and sustainability. Improved seed varieties generated by modern technology are absolutely essential for sustainable food systems in Africa. Africa’s own seed production systems must grow. So is increased use of fertilizers applied at the appropriate dose for the crops and contexts. Africa’s own fertilizer production and distribution systems must be strengthened. Sustainable crop and livestock practices, as well as agro-forestry systems are hugely diverse – actually as diverse as the landscapes and farming systems in Africa.

Africa does not need to choose between stereotyped approaches, such as “technological approaches” or “agro-ecology approaches”, but farmers and their partners in value chains can identify and develop “African approaches”. These will be based on locally adaptive agricultural research, new science, the creativity of farmers, and extension, and entail context-specific, climatesmart, sustainable improved practices in the highly varied conditions of rural Africa. Strengthening the skills of farming entrepreneurs – including women and youth, and facilitating their access to markets (finance, inputs and outputs) remains critical.

This year’s AASR arrives at an important time, as African governments are charting clear pathways to food system transformation in the context and aftermath of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. Given the scale and dynamism of Africa’s food systems, AGRA’s longstanding commitment and that of AGRF Partners Group to smallholder agriculture now requires a shift in focus towards building resilience and sustainability of the entire system.

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