AFRICA – The African Development Bank Group has unveiled a US$1.5 billion emergency food plan for Africa to avert a looming food crisis in the continent caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and persisting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.
AfDB has announced it would invest US$1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called upon the United States to back the initiative to reduce the US$200 million financing gap.
To this end, the president of AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made a compelling case, before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
He highlighted that the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.
The plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers.
Also, Adesina emphasized that the initiative would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.
“One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said
To ensure fruitification of the plan, the Bank is setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs. “If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem,” Adesina emphasised.
According to Adesina, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity and drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.
“With US support to reduce the US$200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” appealed Adesina.
Also providing testimony were David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.
McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “Covid comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
In response to the request, Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding.
“We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe,” he said.
Senator Lyndsey Graham of South Carolina also expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors for approval.