The US is launching a new initiative to identify and invest in climate adaptation for Africa’s most nutritious crops in a bid to deal with growing hunger on the continent.
The program, announced by the US State Department together with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the African Union on Wednesday, will seek to identify the most nutritious crops in Africa’s five sub-regions that have historically not attracted research and investment. It will also assess how they will be affected by extreme climates.
“This push will seek to highlight these crops and aim to adapt both to climate change, to farmers needs and to the demands of the marketplace,” Cary Fowler, special envoy for global food security at the US State Department, said. “We expect this will provide options for nutrition and better food security.”
Reducing Africa’s reliance on global food imports would make the continent more resilient to external shocks and curb hunger. The UN estimates that more than 280 million people in Africa are experiencing hunger. A problem exacerbated by climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Back on the Table
Unlike most crop adaptation efforts that have focused on maize, rice and wheat, the Vision for Adopted Crops and Soils initiative will target traditional and indigenous African fruits and vegetables that have received much less attention, Fowler said.
Many of them are rich in vitamins and micronutrients and inordinately important to lactating women and children in their first 1,000 days, in a continent where stunting levels are very high, Fowler said. According to the Global Nutrition Report, the prevalence of stunting is 30.7% higher than the global average of 22%
The initiative, which has the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the African Orphan Crops Consortium, will also map soils for crop choice and the effective use of fertilizer, Fowler said.