Food production must be increased urgently in an appropriate way for a growing world population, says President Michael D Higgins.
The President said that this will “require increases in productivity and yields”, but warned against an “over-dependence on a small number of staples and an over-reliance on imported fertiliser, pesticide and seeds”.
He made his comments while addressing African leaders at the International Conference on Agriculture ‘Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience’ in Senegal on Wednesday.
President Higgins suggested that if food production is to be increased, it must respect the “seed sovereignty of native practices and indigenous peoples”.
He said: “Increases in food production must be sustainable, even as we continue to lose land to environmental degradation and climate change, with horrific attendant loss of biodiversity.
“The United Nations convention to combat desertification projects that seven-hundred-million people are at risk of displacement by 2050 owing to land degradation. In addition, half of global grain production will be affected by water scarcity. This will create huge competition for resources.
“To address this, we need to invest in land restoration and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. The agreement reached by parties to the United Nations convention on biological diversity before Christmas is therefore hugely important in this regard,” he said.
President Higgins also described the impact the war in Ukraine has had on global food insecurity.
“The illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has exacerbated an already existing food crisis by its blocking of grain and fertiliser shipments early in the war.
“Food and fertiliser prices have increased globally. This has further endangered an already fragile food security,” he said.
The President said the humanitarian response to this is “urgent” and “essential”, but warned that it is “not sufficient”.
He called for the “underlying” structural food system failures that are disrupting global food supply to be addressed as well.
“The global humanitarian response cannot be a mask that serves to cover for the continued neglect of the structural sources of food insecurity,” he said at the conference.
The President also highlighted that in the global north, one quarter of all food produced is wasted.
“In developing countries, a similar proportion is lost during storage and transport. How can we regard a structure which delivers results such as these as not fundamentally flawed?” he warned.