So I visited the library some weeks ago.I’m a very recent non-fiction book reader .i was strutting around when something captured my attention,a book about food .Hold up,there’s a group of people who take any food related issue very seriously.So a book’s name such as “the end of food” raises questions.Is this some kind of threat ?will food be moving to another planet ?how bad is it?With the famine crisis facing our country right now this seemed like the perfect read on what exactly can we do to improve our food system?
First,Let’s agree that agricultural revolution happened in the whole world.No country woke up to an “aha ,this place called earth actually has farms ” moment.You don’t believe me?well let’s go back,like way back.
Australopithecus relied on forest plants and bugs .But who is climate change not to mess up things?The forest began drying out and the beings were forced to move to grasslands having to adopt scavenging.But you can’t rely on scavenging for survival forever So then came homoerectus who was using crude weapons to hunt rodents and reptiles.
Then came the big game hunters cromagnons and neanderthals who realised that game hunting couldn’t sustain them long so they started gathering fruits ,roots and grass such as wheat to keep alive
But also this couldn’t sustain them so now they had to start producing food,they noticed that some plants and grasses could be coerced to come back every year.That’s just the summary of the long story which eventually led to agricultural revolution.
With food available and in surplus then came the freedom to move in to other specializations. But life is tricky increased food production led to increased population who were now too large to be fed by the local farmers using primitive technologies.
So there was need to reinvent the plough,manure was used to replenish soils and crop rotation was discovered.
But once again with increased food came increased population ,they called this the Malthusian theory .
But we can’t starve people in order to have more food so there was need for faster growing food,better infrastructure to assist in sustaining the economic process,specialization in farming,and the invention of fertilizer that could produce a multitude of crops.
Traditional farming had now vanished to be replaced by a supply chain with financiers,input companies,traders,and food processors thus the term agribusiness.
So what can we do to improve food security?
First lets agree that the farmers are often so small for large scale production. If you go to most rural areas, farmers are mostly focused on feeding themselves moat can’t afford the necessary technologies required for large scale production.During the dry seasons some farmers can hardly feed themselves leave alone export.
We could encourage the farmers to create small scale enterprises that require little investment but first we could empwer them to stop focusing on bare survival or subsistence farming by putting aside part of the land for some other type of farming.
But lets remember farming especially large-scale has a number of expenses from fertilizer ,to seedlings to the power needed to supply water to the farms from the water sources so most of the times farmers need to be able to access bank loans.
With growing populations and years of innovation we need to move from using the same methods for feeding a population of 4million to feed a population of close to 40 million.This could work by availing irrigation systems,farm extension services and the rest of the infrastructure that western farmers have that developing ones don’t.If only for an affordable price.
In the 90’s the government created a state run farm program seeking to transform small scale maize farmers into hyper efficient producers.New seeds, subsidized fertilizers and pesticides were distributed to farmers at a low cost and a powerful state run grain board created to act as a friendly buyer purchasing farmers crops that would be sold to urban consumers and tariffs enacted to keep.out cheap foreign grain.
The increase in output created a ripple effect improving urbanization in the country. But then as soon as it started it was over. Oil prices also pushed up the prices of fertilizer.There are a number of reasons that this didn’t work .So if we are to restructure the board it should be able to avoid previous mistakes.
There’s need for storage facilities for grains that reduce immediate selling but first we need to adapt seeds genetically tailored for Africa’s needs.Soil fertility cannot be ignored because soils get exhausted and adding fertilizer to already exhausted soil doesn’t make this better .
In regards to exports there are food crops we can produce competitively the problem is such advantages aren’t distributed across the country .Its normally in one region. On the other end Global food systems are also controlled by perfectionist measures, tariffs and barriers including which keep prices high for local markets.Some of which are pretty high for the farmers. Local farmers also lack productivity to grow crops as cheaply as their counterparts in other countries.What with the changing prices of fertilizers,seedlings and other effects such as rising petrol prices.
Climate change hasn’t also been fair but if we could find ways to maximize on the areas known for having the right weather for certain produce ,with the right regulations in place for affordable production availing modern technology for the local farmer then we’d be on the path to maximizing food security.