Africa’s food security is now seriously threatened by the continued Russian-Ukraine war, the United States (US) government warned on Tuesday.
Ambassador Cindy McCain, the permanent representative of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome stated this at a press briefing, noting that Ukraine was a major source of wheat for over 138 million people in more than 80 countries, including Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Nigeria.
The US, which continues to oppose the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has, therefore, advised that African governments increase their investments in boosting agricultural production, especially through smallholder farmers.
Before the war, over 40 percent of wheat, corn and fertiliser exports from Ukraine went to the Middle East and Africa, which are already grappling with hunger.
This is as the Korean Agriculture Organisation estimates that as many as 13 million people worldwide will be pushed into food insecurity as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The ambassador, who noted that the war has compounded the impact of climate change on the vulnerable population, stressed the need for governments to increase domestic production.
“We’re already seeing shortening food supply. The fact is that there is a huge shortage, of about 50 percent as opposed to 100 percent before the war. There’s going to be some tough choices to be made by African countries.
It’s about increasing productivity, getting more land per hectare for smallholder farmers that dominate the agricultural sector across the continent.
“It’s about increasing investments that make it easier for seeds to get to the market, which increase the flow of goods as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” she said.
She further emphasised the need for governments of the continent to remain open to trade and not to close themselves off. “Stay open to trade, allow our markets to operate, do not close off shipping routes to whether that be fertilise your seeds, around that movement of trade.
“They must also, if needed, reallocate resources to ensure that the most vulnerable are getting nutrition support required and other types of basics as the staples to allow them to get through this period is going to be tough,” she said.
Also speaking, Jim Barnhart, the USAID representative noted that the unprovoked, unjustified invasion of Ukraine, does not only threaten the lives and livelihoods of Ukrainians but already having a substantial impact on the growth of food supplies.
He noted that before Russia invaded Ukraine, the African food security context was already shaking due to the lasting COVID-19 impacts, ongoing humanitarian emergencies, high global food prices and high fertiliser prices.
“The invasion coupled with the weakened food system could result in significant increases in global poverty, hunger and malnutrition, particularly in regions like Sub-Sahara Africa,” he said.
He noted that following the food price spikes in 2008, the Feed the Future initiative of President Obama’s administration has continued to work to strengthen resilience, food systems, agriculture investments in improved nutrition, which are foundational to a long-term goal of improving household wellbeing.
“Under the Feed the Future initiative of President Obama, we work to strengthen the systems that get seeds that are disease and pest resistant and drought tolerant to smallholder farmers across Africa, Asia, in Latin America. We work on getting technologies that improve soil health, reduced food loss, and increase agricultural productivity in the areas that need it the most.
“We improved people’s access to higher quality guidance in the foods that these approaches resulted in farmers gaining more from the land they plant, greater food availability, and expanding the opportunities in local markets.
“So all of this helps to ensure that major shocks like COVID-19, climate change and conflicts are not causing families to slide back into poverty and malnutrition, but able to remain resilient,” he said.