Africa’s drylands could be the solution to the continent’s hunger and malnutrition if governments commit resources to convert them into hubs for irrigated farming, experts said on Friday.
Speaking at a virtual forum convened by Futures Agriculture and Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) in Nairobi, the experts called for regeneration of arid and semi-arid lands and enhance their capacity to produce food.
Gideon Boniface, an agricultural economist from Tanzania noted that regreening of Africa’s drylands is key to sustain agro-pastoralism, boost water, food and nutrition security among herders and subsistence farmers.
“Investing in drylands that cover 60 percent of the African continent will in the long run pay off in terms of food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability,” said Boniface.
He said that drylands act as a carbon sink and their sustainable management is key to realizing a climate resilient future for a continent already reeling from myriad shocks including droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires.
According to Boniface, African policymakers should push for adequate financing at the upcoming global climate summit slated for Oct.31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland and implement adaptation projects in the drylands.
Toendepi Shonhe, research fellow and lecturer at the University of South Africa noted that policy reforms combined with investments in research on drought resistant crops is key to boost agricultural productivity of Africa’s drylands.
According to Shonhe, improving climate resilience of the continent’s rangelands hinges on tapping renewable energy to power irrigation, introduction of nutrient rich and drought tolerant staples like millet and sorghum.
He noted that access to crop and livestock insurance, early warning, investments in supportive infrastructure like roads and storage facilities is key to sustain drylands farming in Africa.
Shonhe said that revitalizing dryland agriculture will boost Africa’s quest for a transition to a just, inclusive and green future against a backdrop of erratic weather patterns linked to climate change.