Dakar, Senegal - African heads of state and development partners will discuss ways to increase Africa's agricultural production at a summit in progress in Senegal. Climate change, soaring inflation, and the effects of Russia's war on Ukraine have combined to make food security precarious throughout much of Africa.
The consensus throughout the three-day event has been that it's time for Africa to end its dependence on food imports.
The continent has enough arable land to feed 9 billion people, yet it spends $75 billion each year to import more than 100 million metric tons of food, according to the African Development Bank, which organized the summit.
"Only a secure continent can develop with pride," said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank. "For there is no pride in begging for food. The timing is right. And the moment is now," he says. "My heart and my determination is that Africa feeds itself."
Around 282 million Africans suffer from hunger, according to U.N. figures, and persistent drought has pushed some areas such as the Horn of Africa and Madagascar to the brink of famine.
FILE - Farmers at a village near Katia, Guinea harvest fonio, Sept. 28, 2022. (Annika Hammerschlag/VOA)
Recent disruptions in the global food supply chain have also aggravated the issue.
Africa typically imports 30 million metric tons of food from the now warring nations of Russia and Ukraine, and energy, fertilizer and food prices have increased by 40 to 300 percent, according to the African Development Bank.
In order to become self-sufficient, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said, African nations must increase funding toward agricultural initiatives and rural infrastructure.
"To succeed, there is no doubt that we need to subsidize farmers," he said. "We must reduce the rate of rural to urban migration through the development of rural areas," he said, "We must invest heavily in irrigation to help address the increasing frequency of droughts."
Due to high lending risks, less than 3 percent of total financing from African commercial banks goes towards funding agriculture, Buhari said, and central banks must pick up the slack.
At a CEO roundtable Thursday, Ahmed Abdellatif, president of Sudanese business conglomerate CTC Group, said risks can be minimized with agri-insurance.
"If you're one of the unlucky half a percent where the rain does not come, it wipes you out totally, and you're in very big trouble,' he said. 'So agri-insurance would be a big enabler."
FILE - Farmer Khady Ba works in a field in Kedougou, Senegal, Nov. 15, 2022. (Annika Hammerschlag/VOA)
Various speakers pointed to success stories on the continent. Ethiopia increased production of a heat resistant wheat variety from 5,000 to 800,000 hectares over a four-year period and is now on its way to becoming a wheat exporter.
The adoption of a drought-resistant maize variety in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda has more than doubled outputs.
In response to the conflict in Ukraine, Zimbabwe began producing its own fertilizer and wheat. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country expects to produce enough wheat to begin exports next year.
"A country must be ruled by the people of that country. A country must be developed by the people of that country,' he said. 'And a country must eat what it sows - that is village wisdom."
The conference will continue through Friday.