Food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture are central to the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
FARA is the technical body of the African Union Commission on issues related to agricultural science, technology and innovation. This umbrella organisation of the continent responsible for coordinating and promoting agricultural research for development (AR4D), made it clear to everyone during this 15th meeting of the partnership platform that it is possible to eradicate hunger in Africa through the production of bio-fortified food.
Indeed, according to studies conducted by FARA partners (NEPAD, IFPRI, CIP...), it appears that more than 800 million people in Africa are vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. And the products consumed by the latter, sometimes overcooked or undercooked, do not help good growth. The issue of famine, they say, affects all of Africa. FAO estimates that 30% of African children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. As a result, they have a potential for learning and access to a reduced paid activity, are vulnerable to infection and have a risk of premature death. That is why we must act with the help of science to remedy this.
Some countries such as Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, Malawi, Uganda, etc., have already begun to use science to use bio-fortified food to protect people from food insecurity and also to boost the country's economy while promoting sustainable agriculture. Nigeria, as part of its agriculture for health programme, has developed varieties of cassava and sweet orange-fleshed potatoes, fortified with vitamin A to address micronutrient deficiencies. The objective is to reach 2.5 million agricultural households. Like Nigeria, Zambia has introduced cassava and maize rich in provitamin A. In Rwanda, about half a million farmers are growing new varieties of iron-rich beans. Farmers using these varieties have higher yields per hectare and higher earnings from the sale of their surpluses.
Need I remind you that the political environment for the introduction of genetically modified (GM) bio-fortified food crops is "not currently favourable". This conclusion is based on an analysis of the current state of biosecurity legislation in some countries such as Mali and in political debates on transgenic crops in the region, which currently focus on Bt cotton. It concludes that the introduction of GM crops may in fact compromise the enabling environment for non-GM bio-fortified crops. According to FARA and its partners, biofortification of the main food crops consumed in these countries has great potential to improve the micronutritional status of vulnerable populations if the challenges of seed distribution can be overcome.
The long-term objectives of FARA and its partners are to totally eradicate hunger in Africa through scientific progress. To do so, all the countries of the continent must adhere to this logic, by cultivating bio-fortified food, to meet the demand of the populations and above all to develop the continent through sustainable agriculture.