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UN says sound ecosystems management
is key to food security in Africa

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The UN on Tuesday called on African countries to integrate sound ecosystems management in their agricultural policies to achieve food security.

The UN officials told a food security conference in Nairobi that harnessing African’s vast ecological treasures could offer lasting solution to endemic hunger and malnutrition in the continent.

The current food production systems in Africa are unsustainable in the light of climate change shocks and population pressure on natural resources. Achieving food security in Africa must factor ecosystems conservation at all value chains,” UNEP’s Regional Director for Africa, Mounkaila Goumandakoye said.

The UN agencies partnered with conservation groups to organize the 1st Africa food security and adaptation conference held at the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Experts said the Africa strongly believes that a clean and healthy environment is a prerequisite for sustainable development.

They also underscored that the protection of environment is too important to be left only to local and national authorities. Delegates were unanimous that prudent ecosystems management will catalyze a green revolution in Africa.

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change is still high as evidenced by recent droughts in the Sahel region and the horn of Africa. Agricultural production has faltered as climate warms. There is need to promote better soil and water management at smallholder level to attain food security,” Goumandakoye told participants at the food security conference.

He urged governments to mainstream natural resources conservation in agricultural policies to strengthen food production.

Countries must scale up best practices like agro forestry, onsite water conservation and use of native species to catalyze agricultural transformation,” Goumandakoye said.



NAKURU(Xinhua) -- A fishmonger weighs a Nile Perch at a fish market in Nakuru, 140 kilometers northwest of Nairobi on Aug. 20, 2013. Government statistics indicate that national fish production rose by about 10 percent in the last 10 years due to increase in number of acreages under ponds with the government chipping in over 5.7 billion Ksh to implement fish farming.  Xinhua Photo: Sheikh Maina.

In Kenya, agriculture accounts for about 20 percent of GDP and is very sensitive to climate change requiring that it adapts to ensure provision of adequate food for a growing population, and to improve production of export crops.

Trade and industry rely on infrastructure and services such as water, energy and transport, and are vulnerable to disruptions caused by droughts and heavy rains whereas tourism depends on a wide range of environmental resources.

Intensifying climatic variation and shifts associated with global warming has forced Kenyan government agencies to review their policies to include communities as the change in nature has serious implications for people and the economy of the country.

According to Dr. Isaiah Nyandega, a Lecturer at the Department of Geography at the University of Nairobi, the natural endowment of renewable freshwater is low, and water resources are unevenly distributed in both time and space in Kenya.

Nyandega said that climate change will worsen this already precarious situation as it affects the main hydrological components of precipitation and run-off.

Some of the strategies involve relatively simple efforts to accommodate changes in the near-term that will present growing conditions that are not significantly different from what farmers have experienced in the past.

The FAO Representative to the African Union (AU), Modibo Traore, noted that climate change poses a formidable threat to smallholders livelihoods as erratic weather patterns disrupt food production systems.

Climate change presents new risks and uncertainties to food production at small holder level. We must prioritize adaptation, facilitate access to genetic resources to boost resilience among smallholders,” Traore said.

He noted that besides altering food production systems, climate change is to blame for spread of virulent pests and diseases affecting crops and livestock.

There has been a dramatic loss of pollinators like bees which support 75 percent of global food production. Climate change threatens biodiversity that underpins food security,” said Traore.

He challenged African governments to promote resource efficient agricultural systems to sustain food production in the face of climatic shocks.

There is need to improve farmers’ knowledge and capacity to promote climate smart agriculture in Africa,” Traore said. Food security has direct impact on a country’s sustainable development, human security and peaceful co-existence.

The Director General, World Agro forestry Centre (ICRAF), Tony Simons observed that famines have fuelled civil strife in many parts of the globe.

Regrettably, hunger undermines innovation and productivity in any given society. We need to harness sustainable approaches to achieve food security,” Simons said.

An estimated 200 million people in Africa are food insecure while climate change, rapid population growth and loss of critical habitats could worsen this challenge.

The World Bank contends that crop yields throughout Sub-Saharan Africa may decline by 15 percent to 20 percent by 2050, hence worsening poverty levels in the region.

Adopting ecological based approaches could help build efficient food systems and resilient livelihoods, and ultimately achieve global food security in a changing climate.

Taking stock of the state of ecosystem based knowledge for food security in Africa opens a window of opportunity,” said UNEP’s Africa Regional Climate Change Coordinator, Richard Munang.



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