Revolutionizing Food and Climate: Advancing Climate Action through Agrifood Systems Transformation.

The Agrifood system covers the whole journey of food from farm to fork and touches every aspect of our life. It’s rather sad that instead of harnessing this immense potential for a positive impact, in most cases, it is an avenue for wreaking havoc to our climate and environment.

A report by Food and Agriculture Organization(2023) indicate that agrifood systems account for one-third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions90 percent of global deforestation and 70 percent of water use globally, and cumulatively is the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss, putting pressure on food value chains. Food is also the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills and we lose or waste enough food to feed 1.3 billion hungry people every year.

This poses not only a threat to the food security among the communities in Africa which are reliant on the food from the farms by shifting planting and harvesting times, but also destabilize source of livelihood. Unless human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, the frequency and intensity of these events will increase, with severe impacts on agriculture and global food security. This calls for prompt measures in creating linkages between the good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good manufacturing practices (MAPs) as the prevent measures to enhance climate change action to curb the menace.

Youth and women are the springboard

With the confluence of the environmental unsustainability in the agrifood systems from production to consumption, the youth and women play a pivotal role in ensuring a striking balance between the factors of production and consumption. They spearhead major transformative projects in ensuring conservation of the environment whilst food security and proper nutrition is achieved. This is owing to the size of the current demographic cohort of youth and women which is the majority, and therefore take the largest stake, and have momentum to accelerate strong influence, which is needed today to direct the development trajectories and future sustainability of food systems.

By synergizing efforts in food production by women and youth such as practicing agroforestry, controlled grazing and organic farming practices, the youth and women can play a role in reducing emissions which largely contribute to carbon build up in the atmosphere. Agriculture is a dominant source of global emissions. Policies spearheaded by women and youth can play a major role in ensuring the carbon emissions do not shift from manufacturing, energy and transport sectors to agri food production sector. This can be done cohesively without threatening food security.

Nairobi: Flour packed in biodegradable packets by Onja Foods, who are in the acceleration program Healthy Diets4Africa Living Lab.
Photo: FSPN Africa.

Through amassing collaborative action by women, youth, the government and various stakeholders in the agrifood system, food wastage which contributes partly to global emissions can be reduced. Through interlinkages between the policies formed by the government and the stakeholders, coupled with efforts put in by women and the youth, regenerative results on the biodiversity reclamation attributed to food wastage can be witnessed. Food wasted in later stages of the supply chain create more harm due to additional materials used in processing and packaging stagnating somewhere in the circular economy. Very few industries or close to none follow up to collect their no biodegradable packaging materials are channeled to recycling. Indicating a recycling icon on the package is proving not enough to translate the message to action.

Setting momentum for change

Knowledge is the starting point of changing our communities’ intuition on food consumption, principle of food processing and preservation and scaling the knowledge, whilst combining our indigenous and modern methodologies can bridge our fragmented information and will safeguard our food sources environment and nutrition. This can be enhanced by advocacy aimed at promoting responsible consumption and messages that influence consumer behavior change. Nevertheless, research and cost effective innovations such as cold storages can prevent food loss by increasing shelf life of perishable food.

Kisii: The elderly need knowledge on Indigenous crops such as African African Leafy Vegetables incorporated in the current digital tools where
the young generation can easily find it. Photo: FSPN Africa/Benadict Isiaho

Cold storage has the ability to reduce enzymatic and bacteria action by minimizing water activity. Food retains its organoleptic quality such as color and texture.  Acquiring and setting up storage facilities need more financial muscle. It’s a quick turnaround technology to food vendors, which if endorsed and availed can create a less stressed environment for food actors. The Kenyan National government in collaboration with selected counties has started the sustainability journey of launching industrial parks, of which one of the technologies is food storage facilities that aim to spread the web value addition in agro processing and marketing. In a lot of ways more employment and reducing food waste standardizing means of food supply.

Empowering women and youth in agriculture can have a positive impact on climate adaptation. By providing appropriate technology and resources, we can promote more sustainable farming and conservation practices which will ultimately reduce adverse climatic effects and increase food security. It needs more financing channeled towards funding technologies' development and related initiatives through agriculture that are humancentric.

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