Russia-Ukraine Conflict: AfDB to Mobilise $1bn for Wheat Production in Africa

Gilbert Ekugbe 

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced plans to mobilise $1 billion to boost the production of wheat and other crops in Africa.

In a statement obtained from its website, the AfDB said that its Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme is already helping the continent to fulfill its enormous potential in the agriculture sector by employing high-impact technologies to boost output. 

Report had revealed that wheat imports accounted for about 90 per cent of Africa’s $4 billion trade with Russia and nearly half of the continent’s $4.5 billion trade.  

“This is now raising the spectre of mass starvation on a continent that depends on food imports to feed itself. If ever there was a time to drastically raise food production in Africa, it is now,” the statement added.

The multilateral agency added that the goal is to help 40 million farmers increase their harvests of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, rice, soybean and other crops to feed about 200 million people.

AfDB said that central to these efforts is the need to train farmers in new techniques that would increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change, pointing out that to feed a hungry and rapidly growing population in the continent, farmers need to produce more food with fewer resources while confronting erratic weather patterns, floods, droughts, the spread of pathogens and the loss of biodiversity.

“Thanks to the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, an Africa-led initiative launched last year to reverse the continent’s vulnerability to climate change, the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) and other development partners are already working to bring climate-resilient techniques to small-scale producers who grow most of Africa’s food,” the statement added.

AfDB added: “The GCA estimates that investing to climate-proof African farms costs less than one-tenth of the damage inflicted by climate disasters, including crop losses, disaster relief, rebuilding roads and getting farmers back on their feet. For sub-Saharan Africa, these sunk costs are estimated at $201 billion a year, compared to the investments needed for climate adaptation in agriculture, which is estimated at $15 billion, again according to the GCA.”

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face the combined challenges of a rapidly changing climate, malnutrition and a growing population. They will need more resilient, productive and nutritious crops if they are to meet this challenge. Such change must happen quickly and at scale. In Africa, climate change could wipe out 15 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030. This means an additional 100 million people forced into poverty by the end of the decade.

Protecting the continent’s rich biodiversity is a route to boosting agricultural yields and finding new crop varieties that are better suited to drier and hotter climates. Genebanks conserve thousands of important plant samples which scientists can use to develop better varieties, but for years they have suffered from insufficient funding and inadequate staffing, putting plant collections – and future food security – at risk.

The BOLD Project, run by the Crop Trust and funded by Norway and the European Union, provided financial and technical support for genebanks in Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana to reach international standards of operation, ensuring collections are safe – and available for use – over the long term.

With food prices climbing and supplies disrupted by conflict, Africa needs to harness as many climate-resilient solutions as it can, quickly and at scale, to stave off the threat of a catastrophic food crisis. Investing in climate adaptation for agriculture is the smartest, most cost-efficient way to guarantee the continent’s food security. There is no time to waste.

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