food security

To the Editor — Pedro Sanchez sketched a very optimistic picture for the future of food production in sub-Saharan Africa, and rightfully so. However, he did not stress the need to care for soils, many of which are degraded in this part of the world. This omission of soil management is unfortunate, but far from exceptional; hence, the declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils. Here, we outline the importance of soils for the alleviation of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

On the green banks of the Niger River in downtown Bamako alongside heavily guarded foreign hotels, a group of urban farmers busily weed and water vegetables on some of Mali's prime real-estate. The "guerrilla growers" do not own the land they're cultivating but property rules aren't stopping them from trying to feed themselves in one of the world's poorest countries. In North America and Europe "guerrilla gardening" usually means an act of political protest against industrialised food production or a lack of green space but in Bamako and across Africa the growing trend for urban gardens is about survival. 

The Kenyan government may be pushed into reconsidering its current ban on genetically modified (GM) foods, as the technology appears to be winning support from some farmers struggling to deal with climate stresses.  In Kenya's driest counties, there is increasing demand for GM crops because of their potential to improve food security and increase yields.  However, some local farmers remain apprehensive; they argue that research regarding the degree to which GM crops increase yields remains unsupported, and they pose serious environmental risks.

Trees inside and outside forests contribute to food security in Africa in the face of climate variability and change. They also provide environmental and social benefits as part of farming livelihoods. Varied ecological and socio-economic conditions have given rise to specific forms of agroforestry in different parts of Africa. Policies that institutionally segregate forest from agriculture miss opportunities for synergy at landscape scale.  More explicit inclusion of agroforestry and the integration of agriculture and forestry agendas in global initiatives on climate change adaptation and mitigation can increase their effectiveness. We identify research gaps and overarching research questions for the contributions in this special issue that may help shape current opinion in environmental sustainability.

According to a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and partner organisations, some areas of Kenya may receive more rainfall as climate patterns shift. Although climate predictions suggest that rainfall will increase in some areas, decreases in rainfall may be seen in some of the most productive agriculture provinces.   Initiatives to help pastoralists adapt to these uncertain futures is underway.  Local groups are partnering with international agencies to promote "Climate-Smart Villages" that provide practical adaptation options to improve food security and resilience.

Where the Rain Falls

The Where the Rain Falls project, a project supported in conjunction by CARE and the United Nations University aims to increase understanding of the complexities of changes in rainfall patterns and how they affect food security and human migration. Through our research and risk reduction and adaptation efforts, we will provide better knowledge, recommendations and practical solutions to improve the lives of vulnerable communities in developing countries around the world.  

Tanzania has set a goal to become a middle-income economy by 2025, a feat that may only be accomplished if the government can successfully increase agricultural production.  To reach this goal, Tanzania has ushered in a coterie of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to help support agriculture all along the supply chain. Enterprising firms promising better seeds, fertilizers and outputs are entering into the mix. And the government is also supporting the growth of large farms, too, which they say could employ technology to assist small farmers via local agreements. Still, the government of Tanzania faces challenges on many fronts, including resistance from farmers reluctant to change traditional agricultural practices, and the ongoing difficulty of adapting to a changing—and less predictable—climate.

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