Food self-sufficiency way to go

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By Tawanda Chenana

WE, back in the village, could not agree more with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s assertion that agriculture is the single most important activity on the continent.

Food self-sufficiency, as a country and continent, is the next frontier to be conquered.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

As Africa grapples with disruptions in the global supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the Russia-Ukraine war, indeed we, as a country and continent, must pursue aggressive strategies to transform agriculture so as to reduce heavy reliance on food imports.

We must see the crisis the world is facing as an opportunity to become self-sufficient in food production.

Africa has more than 60 percent of the globe’s arable uncultivated land and Zimbabwe has the finest of this land and the largest water bodies in sub-Sahara Africa.

But we, as a country and continent, import a lot of rice, maize, poultry products and other food products from China, South America and other parts of the world.

Research shows that the continent is currently a net food importer, spending between US$35 billion and US$50 billion annually on the importation of foods, the majority of which can be grown in Africa.

President Mnangagwa’s call comes at the right time.

It is a call which, if heeded by all and action taken, will free Africa of vestiges of colonialism and poverty.

Most importantly, it is a call in line with the dreams of the founding members of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war must be seen as a golden opportunity for African countries to optimize our potential for food production to meet domestic needs, grow our agricultural exports and create jobs for our youths across the continent. 

The present challenges are an opportunity to build more resilient food systems.

And, as a country, we are already full steam ahead with regards to that agenda of food self-sufficiency.

It is heartening to know that, as a country, we are now self-sufficient in terms of winter wheat output, estimated to be above 360 000 tonnes this year.

A total of 80 000 hectares were put under wheat this year and we expect to get a surplus this season. 

Africa’s Agenda 2063 recognises that key to development, the continent has to benefit from its natural resources while arable land is one of our biggest resources.

President Mnangagwa’s call demands that we put strategic measures in place to ramp up production for all our key staples on the continent, to intensify agro-processing to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure year-round food availability and, in the process, create much needed jobs.

As we value add and beneficiate on a large scale, we build our own industries and, therefore, we will enjoy maximum benefit from our resources.

Indigenisation, empowerment and industrialisation is the way Africa is expected to go as the continent seeks to achieve the objectives of Agenda 2063.

The President also called for the strengthening of intra-African trade for a viable African food systems.

But for Africa to have integrated development as a continent, there is need to be interconnected and we also need to fund our programmes and not depend on the West to support, for instance, our agriculture.

Funding is a critical question we must address, for whoever is responsible for funding determines priorities.

It is unrealistic to expect donors from countries plundering the continent’s resources to support projects meant to consolidate Africa’s economic sovereignty and independence.
We have to run our affairs without worrying about the reaction of our former colonialists.

We must consolidate the gains we have made thus far.

The industries that are being resuscitated will soon need lots of raw materials and our agricultural sector must be ready to deliver so that operations run 24/7.

Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo.

We have the land, the water, the experts and industries producing all the required raw materials.

We can significantly contribute towards the continent’s food security.

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