Crop diversification in promoting Africa’s household food security
In the face of climate variability, crop diversification is critical in enhancing Africa’s household food security.
Africa is largely an agricultural continent with a large population proportion dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to Commission for Africa, agriculture is of great importance to most Sub-Saharan Africa economies, contributing to 80% of employment and 40% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and at least 40% of exports.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Africa is already vulnerable to climate change and extreme events such as floods and droughts. The number of Africa food crises per year have has tripled from the 1980s to the 2000s as a result of severe climate conditions thereby affecting many lives according to FAO, 2004.
Rain-fed farming dominates agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa, covering 97% of total cropland, and exposes agricultural production to high seasonal rainfall variability.
The food consumed across the continent is produced by small-scale farmers and this stresses the importance of small-scale farmers and agriculture to the economic growth of African countries.
Africa continent faces challenges in food security as the main objective in the agricultural sector. The challenges are caused by climate change, soil infertility, and poor agricultural policies.
As a result, this puts household food security for most farmers at risk. This has therefore enlightened small-scale farmers to diversify their crop production to stabilize their food stocks and income.
Addressing Africa’s food security challenges
Diversification is an important farm strategy for managing production risk in small farming systems.
In traditional agroecosystems, the prevalence of complex and diversified cropping systems is key to stabilizing farming systems in allowing crops to reach productivity levels amid environmentally stressful conditions.
Crop diversification helps in developing resilient agricultural systems where communities largely depend on agricultural products for their livelihoods.
Due to crop failure to reach maturity, small-scale farmers are adopting crop diversification to ensure they have an alternative crop to harvest whenever one crop fails.
The main crops largely grown in Africa are maize, beans, and peas but farmers are transitioning to drought-resistant crops such as millet and sorghum.
Farmers are also adopting mixed farming and fruit growing to supplement their production during extreme weather events. Africa has favorable temperature conditions for fruit growing.
Crop diversification helps in higher spatial-temporal biodiversity to the farm and resilience.
There’re opportunities in diversification as the most viable option in small-scale farming as it ensures resilience to agricultural systems that can contribute to Africa’s household food security.
In the face of climate variability, national governments, non-governmental organizations among other stakeholders should intensify efforts to promote crop diversification as a means to end food insecurity in Africa.