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Agricultural sector plays an important role in ensuring food security in Africa, and is one of the leading foreign exchange earners on the continent.
That became salient to me last week (9-10 September) when agricultural experts attending the African Food Security Conference (AFSC) and Agri-Exhibition in Nairobi, Kenya, discussed Africa’s food security challenges and solutions.
The main item on their agenda was how to ensure a food secure continent, with the delegates discussing the complex challenge in Africa, which results from  multiple and interrelated factors.

“Over 200 million people have been made vulnerable to food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Richard Ochanda, Koinonia Advisory Research and Development Services, Kenya

How do we ensure that we address these complex factors holistically to ensure food security? This was the question that kept on confronting the delegates. Some issues emerged that should be addressed to ensure food security on the continent.
Richard Ochanda, a senior consultant from the Kenya-headquartered Koinonia Advisory Research and Development Services, says the key causes of food insecurity in Africa include less agricultural investment by governments, climate change, increased costs of agricultural production and increasing population.
As a result, Ochanda says: “Over 200 million people have been made vulnerable to food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa due to these factors”.
One of the issues that caught my interest was the idea of building the capacity of more women in agricultural research, and encouraging them to be more involved in agricultural research and development.
Delegates emphasised the crucial role women play in the agricultural production value chain, but still lag behind compared to their male counterparts.
A call was also made to involve more women at the policymaking level to ensure that they contribute to making agricultural decisions, especially for small-scale farmers, who constitute the majority of food producers.
I also learnt at the meeting that African agricultural stakeholders, including the government, researchers, policymakers and the private sector, need to work in collaboration to effectively combat food insecurity.
The delegates called for stakeholders to read from the same script on new technologies and innovations that have been developed for agriculture.
The AFSC also addressed poverty, climate change, water scarcity, land rights, supportive agricultural policies and agricultural insurance policies for African farmers.
An exhibition centre alongside the conference enabled research institutions to showcase the latest technologies and other innovative solutions in agriculture in Africa and for Africa.
It is fair to be optimistic that with these efforts, African countries have the potential to realise a food secure continent by forming agricultural partnerships to share knowledge on agricultural innovations and new technologies.
With African countries moving in the same direction, eradicating food insecurity is possible.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.