Food supply crises looms over Africa unless we address environmental issues
Last week former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, outlined the role he hopes Ethiopia will play in leading Africa’s sustainable development and protecting our fragile eco-system. We in Zambia welcome the brave stance he has taken, and call on our own government to address Zambia’s position on environmental protection now. For too long these issues have been kicked into the long grass by African leaders not wanting to take the tough decisions needed. This approach is no longer an option.
Across the world we are seeing the impact of failing to protect the environment in which live and are dependant upon in many shapes and forms, but no where will its devastating impact be felt stronger than in Africa unless we take a stance now.
As a Zambian farmer, I personally know only too well the desperate reliance on rain we have in our country and the devastating impact drought has on Africa when it comes. Declining rainfall across Africa is said to have reduced GDP on the continent by up to 40%. For a continent that is increasingly dependent on our agricultural sector, the consequences of this our unimaginable. It is a life or death situation we face.
To put this into perspective, 11,315 people lost their lives in Africa from the 2014 Ebola outbreak which saw on of the largest international responses in modern time and about $1bn mobilised in a matter of months. However, the threat we face from loss of habitats and reduced bio-diversity is far greater than any disease that humankind has ever faced. Without thriving ecosystems, we risk losing reliable food supplies that our citizens simply cannot exist without. Yet we are seeing no urgency in Africa’s response to this.
Our agricultural sector has historically been the envy of countries all around the world for many years, yet unless action is taken we are sleep walking our way into environmental disaster. By safeguarding nature and our environment, we are not only helping the animals, plants and boosting tourism potential, but we are protecting the health of our citizens, the ability to drink clean water and our food supplies.
Many of the challenges Zambia faces are as a result of a failure of leadership to put in place policies that stand to protect the Zambian people not just now, but for many years to come. Too often we see leaders, not just in Africa but all over the world, taking decisions that simply kick the can down the road by papering over cracks in the wall, without addressing the fundamental issues that our country, indeed our continent faces. We are rapidly running out of time to prevent a crises of food supply unless we, as African politicians, are bold enough to take these decisions now and stop the loss of bio-diversity on our planet.
From an economic perspective, it is not just the loss of food supplies we face in Zambia but also a collapse in our already stalling tourist industry. As it stands, we are already a long way behind Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and Kenya in terms of contribution towards GDP despite having some of the most beautiful national parks and unique bio-diversity.
I believe we, as Zambians and Africans, can turn this threat into an opportunity to lead the way internationally. In an age where we face unprecedented economic challenges in Zambia, we could significantly boost our tourism capacity and safeguard the food supplies if we put more focus on protecting our precious land. We are therefore calling on our government in Zambia and all political leaders in Africa to consider protecting 30% of our land by 2030, in order to safeguard its future for both the current and future generations of Zambians.
Hakainde Hichilema is the leader of the UPND and a farmer in Zambia.