Africa’s population is expected
to triple before the end of the century, to 3.6 billion people.
Feeding this population is a significant challenge as there
are currently nearly one billion food insecure people in the
world, says Willem Engelbrecht, South Africa manager of DuPont
He says of the world’s one billion food insecure people,
about a quarter live in Africa. However, Africa’s favourable
climatic conditions and natural agricultural resources are
sufficient enough to address these challenges, if utilised
correctly, says Engelbrecht.
He says the agriculture sector in Africa can flourish if
key issues are addressed. “We need to produce more food
and increase the nutritional value of food through scientific
innovation, as well as empower farmers by ensuring that
they have access to the tools they need”.
Engelbrecht says by improving agricultural products and
practices to address natural resource needs, food accessibility
in Africa can be significantly improved.
“To make food more accessible and affordable for everyone,
issues such as food transportation costs, improved infrastructure
and government policies also need to be addressed,” he says.
Engelbrecht believes that biotechnology is a viable solution
to increasing food production in Africa. “We have seen enthusiastic
growth of biotechnology in South Africa over the past 10
years. In some cases, biotechnology has increased larger
local farmers’ yields by 20 – 30% per hectare and small-scale
farmers’ yields by 30 – 40% per hectare.”
He says educating farmers about the value of biotechnology
and how it can impact their bottom line positively has been
one of DuPont’s key successes in South Africa. “The next
step is creating an African platform where all farmers can
achieve their full potential, provide for their community
and contribute to the economic progression and sustainability
of the continent.”
Engelbrecht says that besides creating platforms for economic
growth through education, the symptoms of poverty can be
reversed by empowering people and producing nutritional
food cost effectively and by combining available resources
with scientific intervention.
European environmental organisations have renewed their
protest against genetically modified (GM) foods in the past
months, after recent controversial studies revealed that
genetically-modified maize pollen had adverse effects on
monarch butterfly caterpillars in the US
According to the US
Food and Drug Administration and that country’s department
of agriculture, some of the more than 40 plants that have
passed all federal requirements for commercialisation, include
tomatoes, soybeans, sugarbeets, maize and cotton plants
with increased resistance to insect pests. However, not
all these products are available in supermarkets yet.
In 2000, 68% of all GM crops were grown by US farmers,
with Argentina, Canada and China producing only 23%, 7%
and 1% respectively. Other countries that growing commercial
GM crops in 2000 include Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany,
Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain, and Uruguay.
Africa Harvest CEO Dr. Florence Wambugu, whose organization
leads the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Project says
GM sorghum, which is a stable diet in most parts of Africa,
is loaded with nutrients and were resistant to drought,
water logging and can provide three harvests a year.
“Conventional methods could not achieve the levels of micronutrients
required. However, once the final product is ready, the
nutrition-enriched sorghum will be back-crossed into African
sorghum varieties through the conventional breeding methods,”
The Project is supported by he Howard Buffett Research
Foundation through the Danforth Center.
Engelbrecht says: “Ultimately it’s about putting healthy
food on the table as cheaply as possible”.