[Column] Ibrahim Mayaki: A food “leapfrog” is possible in Africa
By 2050, the world will have to feed 10 billion people, taking into account the impact of food production on the climate.
In other words, it will be a matter of producing enough for all without depleting water, land and forests. A challenge? Not necessarily…
This is what is said by 37 experts from 16 countries who have addressed this very concrete question: what healthy diets can be derived from sustainable agriculture? Their responses, with numerical targets around the world, represent a first. They can be found in the report on food, the planet and health of the commission formed by the NGO EAT Forum and the British medical journal The Lancet.
A healthy diet for humans and sustainable for the planet, according to the report, includes half of fruit and vegetables, followed by cereals and pulses (lentils, beans, nuts, pistachios, etc.) and between 0 and 186 grams of meat per day. The document has already been released in Australia, the United States and Indonesia, where it has been widely reported. It is now being launched in Africa, on the sidelines of the 32nd African Union Summit, in partnership with the NEPAD Agency.
The challenges remain daunting, depending on the context of each region of the world. In Africa, the picture is mixed. As many as 59 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition, while 9 million are overweight. The Sahel, the Great Lakes and Madagascar remain the most food insecure regions. At the same time, diseases from rich countries are spreading as a result of urbanization, the rise of the middle classes and changes in eating habits. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer are on the rise.
Good news, however, is that Africa is one of the few regions in the world, according to the EAT Lancet report, where vegetable consumption is higher than the recommended level and animal protein consumption is lower than the maximum desirable. From Egypt to South Africa and Rwanda, cereals and vegetable proteins from beans, peas, beans and other dried vegetables are already used in daily dishes.
No one is fully aware of this yet, but on the food level, “leapfrogging” is possible on the continent. This jump has already been observed in telecommunications. The expansion of mobile telephony has taken place without the stage of the generalization of fixed lines, as in industrialized countries. By adapting its consumption and agriculture to the climate now, the continent could skip another important step: that of industrial agri-food in the countries of the North, with its harmful effects on health and the environment.
It will be possible, concludes the EAT Lancet report, to feed the planet without damaging the climate under several conditions. The consumption of vegetable protein must increase everywhere, to see the share of animal protein decrease. It will also be necessary to reduce by half the volumes of food thrown away every day in the world, as well as the harvests lost – a crucial problem in Africa. The recipe is now in our hands. It is up to each of us to set an example.