Environment day to focus on land restoration theme

Wednesday, June 5th, 2024 02:24 | By
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. PHOTO/Print
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. PHOTO/Print

Food is life and water is life. Without these two precious natural elements, humanity would not exist.

Food and water security are the most important components of human existence.

As the community of nations prepares to mark World Environment Day today, humanity must take note of the grim warning issued by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Humanity depends on land. Yet all over the world, a toxic cocktail of pollution, climate chaos, and biodiversity decimation are turning healthy lands into deserts, and thriving ecosystems into dead zones.

“They are annihilating forests and grasslands, and sapping the strength of land to support ecosystems, agriculture, and communities,” he stated referring to World Environment Day’s theme of “land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.”

His warning recalls the dire situation in the East and Horn of Africa region which last year experienced a devastating drought following six failed rainy seasons and which has in the past three months faced catastrophic floods.

Prolonged drought

The prolonged drought affected over 36.5 million people, with 20 million facing acute food insecurity, and over 16.3 million failing to access enough water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and for watering their livestock and crops.

The repercussions of the food security crisis caused by the prolonged drought are still being felt to date. While climate change is partly to blame, the issue has prompted African governments to rethink their food and agriculture policies.

More than 60 years since independence, Kenya is still grappling with the three ills the founders of the nation identified as impediments to the citizens’ development – poverty, disease and hunger.

Agriculture investments

Addressing Madaraka Day celebrations whose theme was ‘Agriculture and Food Security’ on Saturday, President William Ruto said investments in agriculture are key to the expansion of agriculture, the most important value chain in Kenya’s economy.

“Agriculture’s direct contributions to our GDP is 25 percent, while its indirect support to other economic pillars, such as manufacturing boosts the GDP by a further 27 per cent,” Ruto stated.

He added that his government’s transformation agenda will increase efforts to reduce hunger, fight poverty and improve the health of Kenyans, triple ailments that have infected the majority of citizens since the attainment of independence in 1963.

Appreciating the role of small-scale farmers in Kenya’s agricultural sector and their contribution to food production, he noted how they have defied systemic and structural limitations to help meet household and national food security needs.

He promised State support for the local farmers and other value chain actors in the food system to transform their productive assets beyond subsistence and to enhance food security through stronger extension and information services.

Although the Kenya government has made strides to boost the country’s agricultural sector, it is still far from meeting the targets set for allocating budgeted national financial resources to agriculture committed in the Maputo and Malabo Declarations.

During their annual African Union (AU) Assembly, African Heads of State and Government in July 2003 adopted the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.

They endorsed several ambitious decisions regarding agriculture, including the “commitment to allocate at least 10% of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years” of the declaration.

Over 20 years later, this commitment is far from being realised and the 10 percent pledge remains largely unfulfilled. Ten years after the Maputo Declaration, the African leaders again met in Equatorial Guinea’s capital city, Malabo.

The Malabo Declaration signed at the AU Summit in 2014 recommitted to the principles and goals adopted in 2003 in Maputo. But Malabo went further by identifying specific goals and targets to be achieved within 10 years.

The targets include ending hunger, tripling intra-African trade in agricultural goods and services, enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems, and ensuring that agriculture contributes significantly to poverty reduction.

A specific commitment on mutual accountability to actions and results, calls on AU member states to conduct a biennial agricultural review process involving tracking, monitoring and reporting on implementation progress.

Minimum score

In the 2020 biennial review out of 49 countries, 36 had made positive progress towards achieving the Malabo commitment targets by 2025. However, only four (Ghana, Mali, Morocco and Rwanda) had the minimum score required to be on track.

Only by leveraging Africa’s vast expanses of fertile, uncultivated land to strengthen food systems will hunger be reduced and lives improved across the continent.

Farmers need support for climate adaptation and the adoption of modern technologies as African countries strengthen and prioritise investment in resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems.

This will require supporting agribusiness, constructing feeder roads in rural areas and enhancing climate-resilient farming inputs and practices to promote economic opportunities, improved livelihoods, and food security.

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