As Africa is drifting towards modernity and the technological era, food consumption patterns are also changing, and fewer people consume the typical African made food. It is true that some African foods will give you chills but there is a lot more that the continent can produce and eat without having to import from other countries. Some of the main food items that most African countries import include Cereals especially corn (22 million metric tons) rice and wheat, meat products especially poultry, and instant foods such as noodles.
Why does Africa import food?
- Rapid growth rate
Africa is the second largest and most populated continent in the world after Asia. With a steadily growing population, Africans are depending more on imported food because the food produced in Africa cannot cover the rising demands.
- Urbanization and industrialization
This is another reason why Africa needs to import food. Many portions of land that could have been good for agriculture have been mapped out and used to build industries, supermarkets and residential areas, thereby reducing agricultural land.
- Diseases and pests
African farmers lack or do not have adequate pest control mechanism to cater for their crops, which are usually affected by pest, leading to low yields. Also livestock is often lost to diseases due to inadequate veterinary services.
- Climate change
This is a major reason for low agricultural production which has let to an increase in the quantity of food imports. A great amount of agricultural land is being lost to desertification especially in the northern and western regions of Africa where the desert is expanding as a result of lack of rainfall. Also many African farmers depend on rainfall as they do not have the means to irrigate their farms.
- Lack of interest in agriculture
This is especially common which the younger generations who are more interested in technologically advanced and blue-collar jobs instead of getting dirty and sweaty in a farm. Also, the lack of investment and limited government subventions for small scale farmers has killed the interest many young people have in agriculture.
As a result of all these and many more factors, Africa is unable to produce enough to feed her growing population. She has to resort to importing food, thereby spending what she should be using to boost production that will in turn boost economic growth on the continent.
How can eating local boost the economy
Buying local food keeps money in the community, which will help the community develop. This is because when we buy from foreign supermarkets and other distributors, the money spent goes back to their countries of origin. On the other hand buying food produced by local cooperatives and farming groups or even retailers retain the cash in the local communities and goes a long way to ameliorate the production of high quality food crops.
Eating local reduces imports. This is an important factor because Africa spends 35 billion dollars to import food every year. This is money that can be used to enhance the agricultural sector so it can meet up with the growing demand for food. Because with a little effort and determination on the part of African leaders, Africa will be able to feed herself and even have enough to export.
Buying local food promotes production. With the increase in demand, production too will increase. The advantage of an increase in production is the ability to export. In this light, instead of spending money on imports more can be gotten from exporting the excesses.
Eating local reduces wastage. It is common to see piles of rotting food stuff, fruits and vegetable in our local markets. This is mostly because of lack demand since most people especially in the urban areas prefer buying from shopping malls and supermarkets. Unfortunately, those who are willing to buy do not have the means to. This greatly affects the production chain especially for small scale farmers who depend to the sales of their yields to purchase seeds and equipment. On the other hand, buying local food help sustain these farmers.
Eating local maintains and creates jobs. Many Africans depend on agriculture for livelihood, whether on large or small scale. When we eat locally made food, it enables million of Africans to feed their families and educate their children. This is because the money most farmers get from selling their products is used to pay workers in the case of large scale farming, while those who practice subsistent farming use the money to buy what they cannot produce.
Apart from boosting the economy, eating local food is relatively cheaper than imported food. Also eating local food is healthier because local food is consumed shortly after production, and does not require chemical preservatives which are generally found in imported food.
For Africans to become African food citizens, govening bodies need to increase sustainable investment so as to increase agricultural productivity, which is critical for sustainable growth and development on the continent. They also need to standardized production and promote food processing so that what is produced in Africa meets international standards.
Article from AFRIC editorial
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