Invest in food security to help people stay in their homes

This Monday marked a gloomy World Food Day; global hunger has risen for the first time in over a decade. There are 38 million more people going hungry this year than last year mainly due to persistent violent conflicts and climate related shocks – both of which drive migration.

Blog: WFD_migration

Two Degrees Up project that looks at the impact of climate change on agriculture. Photo credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

More people have been forced to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War. This presents a complex challenge and calls for collaboration and action across continents.

Africa has the highest percentage of its people affected. Across the region 20 percent are hungry and in East Africa that figure rises to 34 percent. Africa has also been hit with severe famines over the last few years notably in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. These have been accentuated by ongoing conflict and recurring droughts.

The factors that drive migration are diverse, but investing in food security in rural areas can help to address some of the reasons why people migrate. The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) argues that the solution to the migration crisis could be a sustained effort to strengthen farming in ever more difficult conditions.

Globally three quarters of the extreme poor depend on farming to live. In order to tackle migration, we must work to create the conditions that motivate people, especially young people, to stay in rural areas and sure-up the farming they depend on to survive.

African smallholder farmers are on average 60 years old but 11 million young Africans will enter the labour market every year for the next decade. Business opportunities must therefore be created for young people in farming but also in jobs that support growing local rural economies like processing and marketing farming products.

Villages in rural Africa that depend on farming and agriculture are often highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Over the coming decades these marginal locations are predicted to experience higher temperatures, more frequent and intense droughts and increasing water scarcity. This may lead to a dramatic decline in productivity and less cultivable land for communities that are already poor and resource scarce.

The challenges are many and complex but there are already inspiring initiatives that are making a real difference.

Several initiatives offer resource-poor farmers ways to raise their productivity. High-yielding and heat-tolerant wheat crops are thriving in sub-Saharan Africa and enhancing food security. The Africa Development Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program is on a mission to make farming attractive to young people and stem migration.

Mahmud Johnson is 26. He’s the Founder of J-Palm Liberia. A company that works to improve incomes for Liberia’s smallholder oil palm farmers by 50-80 percent. He is creating jobs for over 1,000 young people to work as sales representatives for his products. He said

“Despite the tremendous odds, we (African youth) are determined to maximize our abundant agricultural resources to create wealth, jobs, and socioeconomic opportunities in our countries and across the continent. We need our stakeholders to view us as serious partners in Africa’s transformation, and to work with us to expand our enterprises,”

Mahmud wants to change the narrative of Liberia from civil war, poverty and corruption to Liberians having the power to transform their own communities through enterprise. The goal of the bank is to develop 10,000 young agricultural entrepreneurs per country in the next 10 years said Dr Adesina who will collect the World Food Prize this week in Iowa.

Lessons learned from young entrepreneurs like Mahmud could help governments create strategies across Africa to support growing rural agribusinesses. These will then, in turn, help farmers to be more resilient to changing climates, improve food and nutrition security in rural areas and decrease the pressure on young people to move to cities in order to get a good job. 

The opinions represented in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of individual Malabo Montpellier Panel members and their organisations.