Africa relies on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine, but with the ongoing crisis, which closed ports in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, the supply chain is disrupted. Humanitarian agencies are arguing that the blocked supplies are worsening the hunger situation in Africa where some parts have been hit by persistent drought, desert locust infestation and insecurity.
According to the African Development Bank (ADB), this continent now faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from both countries. African leaders are now engaged in urgent calls to Western countries and Russia to at least free up the cereal and grain supplies.
African Union chief and Senegalese President Macky Sall recently met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to ask him to assist in getting the wheat of Ukraine out of Odessa. He also talked to the Europeans to stop sanctioning Russian wheat and fertilizers because Africa needs them.
Antonio Querido, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization envoy in Uganda said that while all these calls are short-term measures, the silver lining on the Ukraine crisis is the signal that Africa should work on being self-sufficient in food.
"When it comes to the agriculture sector, we should look at this global crisis as an opportunity. This is the time for us also to look at ways for us to be self-sufficient in feeding our people. Uganda, you still have more than 60 percent of arable land untouched, sufficient water, so there is an opportunity for us," he pointed out.
‘World War for Bread’ Underway - Italy If the military conflict in Ukraine does not come to an end soon, the resulting famine could trigger political instability in Africa, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio.
The UN envoy argued that African countries need to identify commodities that they can invest and start producing at a scale that can address the continent's food shortages.
"Our continent has 60 percent of the global arable land, this is the continent that you find one of the biggest rivers, and our market is also 1.4 billion people. More investment is needed in agriculture, mechanization for us to produce more," he said.
ADB last month announced a US$1.5 billion facility to benefit 20 million African farmers, who will receive certified seed and technology to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food. This, according to the bank, would be a US$12 billion increase in food production in two years.
The two-year emergency phase will be followed by a five-year ramp-up phase aimed at weaning Africa off wheat and other food imports. The five-year phase will deliver seeds and inputs to 40 million farmers under the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program. Some African countries have started their individual journeys of reducing dependence on food imports.
On Tuesday, President Yoweri Museveni said that Uganda is moving away from depending on rain-fed agriculture to irrigation. Besides working on mega irrigation schemes, his administration is working with the private sector to ensure the production of solar-powered irrigation pumps that can be used in villages.