Play The Hand You Are Dealt: A Piece About African Governments, Food Security And The War On Ukraine

Africa has about 60% of the world’s arable land, yet statistics from 2016-2018 shows that we import up to 85% of our food. By any reasonable metric that is completely insane. We talk about these statistics all the time, and we hear it often in speeches from our leaders but year in year out nobody seems to do anything. Nobody seems to know what to do.

In recent political and economic discourse, all the attention and blame has been shifted to the Russian war on Ukraine. While we cannot dismiss the effects of the war on the global economy. I think its honestly embarrassing that with 60% of the world’s arable land and 70% of the population being under the age of 30, Africa imports 85% of its food. Africa should be a giant, but we feel more like a feather in the wind and that is simply because we refuse to play the hand we are dealt.

Africa will never develop the way Europe did, Africa will develop differently and until we realize that and find African solutions to our problems, we will continue in this loop forever. We need to take a deeper look at our lives, culture, and economies and come up with practical solutions that ensure that we are at the very least food secure.

There are so many sectors where Africa might never be a global leader for a variety of reasons, but there is no reason why Africa is not the global leader for the world’s food supply. We did not need the war to tell us that we must begin producing our food and if nothing changes, we will still be in the same situation or even worse after the war.

Farming is the ultimate test of leadership, seeds must be planted, cared for till they bare fruit and harvested at precisely the right time. It requires care attention, but its also requires vision and precision. The only difference between a farmer and an  African politician is that a Farmer reaps what he sows, but we the people reap what a politician sows.

African solutions involve looking at the entire farming system from the bottom up, right from land ownership to markets. We have to look at what we have, and think of ways to make it better because if we try to do it the way the Europeans did it, we will fail. African farms are mostly under 10 acres, owned by nuclear families and passed down through generations.

This means that in order to make them effective, the options are either for bigger corporations to take control over all the farms in a particular area or to train these farmers in better farming practices that increase yield and keep quality of food high. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

However, keeping Africa and Africans in mind, it is better to avoid bigger corporations at the farming level. Let the people own their land. Governments and private entities must be required to have purchasing agreements with these farmers and their produce after harvest can be graded from export quality to compost quality, each grade with its prospective price collected at warehouses situated in these farming communities.

Consumable food goes to the market, compost quality produce is used to make compost and then sold back to these farmers for the nest season. With a little bit of meticulous planning this system can be replicated beautifully in various districts for various crops. This is a simple African solution for an African problem that can be replicated for more than a few crops and there hasn’t been a single mention of foreign input or import. This system is tried and tested too, between 2017 and 2018 under my leadership, Ghana Export Promotion Authority increased national cashew production by 43%. All it took was someone who actually cares, because in my experience if you take care of your farms, your farms will take care of you.

This is not to downplay the effects of global supply chain challenges on food security worldwide but if you have 60% of the world arable land and you import 85% of your food, you don’t have a Ukraine problem, you have an African problem. We need to ease up on blaming the war for everything and begin to look within, find our pride and solve our problems because nobody will solve them for us. We need to begin to find our solutions from what we have and stop talking about what we don’t have. We need to play the cards we have been dealt. Our home is all we have and if we take care of it, it will take care of us.