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How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

Simeon Ehui's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025.

And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.

Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Secrets to successful irrigation management from Central Asia

Soumya Balasubramanya's picture

As delegates are gathering this week in Tajikistan for the High-Level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018-2028, it is an opportune moment to share some lessons learned in improving gender inclusiveness in water management in Tajikistan.
 
Khatlon Region is one of the most populated areas of Tajikistan and located to the south of the conference venue in the nation’s capital of Dushanbe. About 60 percent of the region’s people are employed by the agricultural sector, which depends almost entirely on irrigation. However, growing numbers of rural women in Khatlon are being left behind to manage farms, while males migrate elsewhere in search of work. With little social and financial support, these women struggle to find productive roles in the irrigation management system that replaced the centralized Soviet model. Improving gender inclusiveness in irrigation management may improve the country’s food security, rural livelihood opportunities, and social stability.   

#AfricaCAN: Retired nurse reinvents her career as an entrepreneur

Sarah Farhat's picture



"I grew up raised by two parents who were farmers, but as I grew up, I hated farming." That's one of the first things I heard as I met with Ntuba Masena, the owner of a fruit and vegetable drying business in Lesotho. Ntuba remembered spending long days plowing the fields with her parents, and as a result, agriculture was the last thing on her mind. It's safe to say that it has been an unusual journey for the 61-year-old retired nurse who had reinvented herself as an entrepreneur and small business owner.

How improving fisheries' governance in West Africa improves fishermen’s livelihoods

Stephen Akester's picture
© Stephen Akester/World Bank
© Stephen Akester/World Bank

I first met Solomon in the early 1980s on Sierra Leone’s Plantain Island, when he volunteered his canoe for a trial program modernizing sails to reduce dependence on petrol for outboard engines. Solomon soon became my friend, and I followed his fortunes and struggles as a fisherman working on Yawri Bay.

Solomon died before he could see the positive outcomes in sustainable fisheries management in West Africa. I especially wish he could have reveled in recent reduction in illegal fishing and large scale industrial trawlers that had taken away his livelihood. Instead, the narrative of his life captures the harsh existence of fishing communities and the added burdens they have had to bear as successive governments failed to manage the once limitless fishing on which they depend. 

Ensuring a water and food secure future through farmer-led irrigation

Steven Schonberger's picture

How can we think in new ways about expanding farmer-led irrigation in support of global food security and poverty reduction? This was the question at the heart of the 2017 Water for Food International Forum. The theme, “Water for Food Security: From Local Lessons to Global Impacts,” was based on the premise that global breakthroughs are so often driven by local action.
 
Organized by the World Bank and the Daugherty Water for Food Institute (DWFI) at the University of Nebraska, and supported by several partners, the event showcased voices from farmer representatives, the private sector, national and regional policymakers, and major international financing institutions – galvanizing a coalition of support to legitimize farmer-led irrigation as a major development agenda, particularly for Africa.
 

Cucumbers growing in a greenhouse for hydroponics.
Photo: Sashko via ShutterStock

Innovate to irrigate: 19 innovations to increase food production without draining the earth

Brittany Scalise's picture
Also available in: Arabic, Chinese, French
Whenever you bite into a piece of food, do you think about where it comes from? How did it get from the ground to your table? Who are the farmers and entrepreneurs who cultivated and sourced it? It’s strange to think that this doesn’t cross our minds more often.
 
This issue is one we should be thinking about more and more often. As populations continue to grow, there needs to be new innovations to increase sustainable food production, without draining the earth. With factors such as climate change impacting water supplies and security, business-as-usual just won’t cut it.
 
For this reason, on January 29th, 2018, the
Water for Food International Forum Innovation Fair: Innovate to Irrigate, gathered together 19 organizations who are leading the way in this challenge, through creative technologies that support farmer-led irrigation practices.

Igniting action for farmer-led irrigation at Water for Food International Forum

Lauren Nicole Core's picture
Water scarcity, lack of access and rights to water for irrigation, and climate shocks are just a few of the challenges that global farmers face. These issues emerged as major themes during the Water for Food International Forum taking place today and tomorrow (January 29-30, 2018) at the World Bank, which brought together farmers, governments, private food and technology companies, financial institutions, and researchers and practitioners from around the world. 

Climate-smart agriculture: Lessons from Africa, for the World

Ademola Braimoh's picture



The world’s climate is changing, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  The impact of climate change will be particularly felt in agriculture, as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased pests and diseases pose new and bigger risks to the global food system. Simply put, climate change will make food security and poverty reduction even more challenging in the future.

Bouncing back: Resilience as a predictor of food insecurity

Erwin Knippenberg's picture

One in eight people worldwide still go to bed hungry every night, and the increased severity of natural disasters like droughts only exacerbates this situation. Humanitarian agencies and development practitioners are increasingly focused on helping the most vulnerable recover from the effect of these shocks by boosting their resilience. 


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