Africa is rich in natural resources and is probably the last continent where optimising agricultural production is possible. | WWF

Africa is rich in natural resources and is probably the last continent where optimising agricultural production is possible.

Posted on 12 January 2018
Driefontein grassland wetlands
© Candice Bate WWF Zimbabwe
Factors like climate change, population growth, urbanization, changing food preferences and increasing demand for agricultural products are pushing Africa's agricultural frontiers and placing increased pressure on the natural capital. If not planned and managed well, such developments can potentially negatively impact important ecosystems, reduce food systems' resilience to climate change, and increase the cost of food production in the long term.

Africa’s millions of smallholder farmers and pastoralists not only deal with low productivity, poor soils, low inputs and minimal access to technology, but also few entry points to food value chains. Food value chains affect the continent's food and natural capital systems in two key ways.

First, they improve the quality and diversity of products from smallholder farmers and create access to different markets therefore improving monetary gains, diet, nutrition, and food productivity while recognizing the importance of ecosystems services. Second, consumers in across the world, especially Europe and North America, are increasingly seeking sustainably produced commercial agricultural products like palm oil, soyabeans, cocoa and sugar.

Sustainable agriculture production in Africa faces several challenges. One major challenge is the heavy reliance on natural resources on the backdrop of low capital investments, which has led to crop production yield levels which are a third below their potential.  Additionally, disempowering land tenure systems remain a major challenge, given that common property resources in most parts of Africa are a disincentive to sustainable natural resource management and investment.  

Other challenges include low economic value placed on natural resource and high post-harvest losses.  Africa’s natural resources are generally considered as a medium for development and not a source of development. About 33% of food produced in Africa is lost after harvest, mostly due to poor handling, transportation, storage infrastructure and processing.

The goal of the Africa Food Transformational project is to promote land-based sustainable food systems that conserve natural capital and provide benefits to household food and nutrition security.

We at WWF believe that collaboration with other global players will help influence investment decisions, policies, practices and technologies towards sustainability and increased resilience of Africa’s food system and beyond.  As such with our global partners we are committed to implement the following interventions:
  • Developing scenarios to model pathways towards sustainable agriculture development,
  • Establishing knowledge management systems to scale up good practices around climate smart and conservation agriculture,
  • Fostering sustainability practices along value chains of commodities that have a greater impact on natural capital such as palm oil, and
  • Facilitating for trade-offs between socio-economic development and natural capital in agricultural investment corridors.
It is therefore important to support farmers across  Africa to adopt food production systems that create and maintain the crucial balance between agricultural development and the protection of natural capital and ecosystems.
Driefontein grassland wetlands
© Candice Bate WWF Zimbabwe Enlarge