Most of Africa’s Arable Land ‘Too Damaged’ for Food Production

Most of Africa’s Arable Land ‘Too Damaged’ for Food Production

A report by  the Montpellier Panel has said that nearly 65 percent Africa’s arable land  is too damaged by land degradation and a growing population that it cannot sustain meaningful food production and will continue to give poor yields unless drastic measures are taken.

The Montpellier Panel comprises of eminent persons in agriculture, ecology and trade from around Africa and Europe. The group issued a report titled “No Ordinary Matter: conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soil“ last month.

The report says that only an increased investment in land and soil management by African governments and donors will save the continents food security. It advocated for governments to incentives  agribusiness investors an smallholder farmers that take good care of their land.

Without new approaches to better managing soil health in Africa, the report says the amount of arable and productive land available per person in 2050 will be a fourth of the level it was in 1960.

“Smallholder farmers usually lack the resources to effectively do soil and water conservation yet it is very important. Therefore, for small holder farmers to do it they must be motivated or incentivized and this can come through linkages to markets that bring in income or credit that enables them access inputs,” Moses Tenywa, a soil expert and professor of agriculture at Uganda’s Makerere University, told IPS.

The Montpellier Panel report estimates that nearly 180 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are hurt by land degradation, which costs about $68 billion in economic losses as a result of damaged soils that prevent crop yields.

“The burdens caused by Africa’s damaged soils are disproportionately carried by the continent’s resource-poor farmers,” the chair of the Montpellier Panel, Professor Sir Gordon Conway, said.

“Problems such as fragile land security and limited access to financial resources prompt these farmers to forgo better land management practices that would lead to long-term gains for soil health on the continent, in favour of more affordable or less labor-intensive uses of resources which inevitably exacerbate the issue.”