OCP CEO: Africa Can Solve Global Food Security Issues

With 60% of the world's remaining arable land, the OCP head is confident that Africa can become the world's farm.

Africa has the potential to become the world’s farm, and eradicate the rising threat of food security, OCP’s CEO Mostapha Terrab has said.

With the world’s population growing, ensuring global food security is no longer an option. “It’s a global imperative,” Terrab explained in a blog post published on the World Economic Forum’s website on the eve of this year’s Davos forum.

While Africa has the potential to feed the world, Terrab argues that it is currently facing severe food security issues.

“As a Moroccan company, we know this challenge is especially acute on our home continent,” said the OCP CEO. “By 2050 Africa’s population is expected to nearly double.”

Terrab argued that, in light of the food security threat posed by population growth, “accelerating the transition to sustainable, smarter farming” is now “more urgent” than ever.

While increasing agricultural yield may appear to be a simple task, Terrab points out that the climate threat must also be considered. “It is not an option to ensure food security for all while also protecting the planet for future generations. It is a global necessity.”

Africa can be the world’s farm 

Africa is currently home to 60% of the world’s remaining arable land, the OCP CEO points out in the blog. The substantial volume of fertile soils “represent humanity’s best hope for future food security.”

However, a number of obstacles stand in the way of Africa reaching its full potential. According to the OCP CEO, African farmers use only 20 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare, which is significantly less than the global average.

“It is estimated that local farmers will need to increase their fertilizer application by around tenfold to maximize yields per acre,” he said. “Doing this in a sustainable way – without longer-term environmental damage – will be crucial. Not just for the continent, but for the entire world.”

Terrab’s blog urged all stakeholders to take “corrective actions” to alleviate the price shock in the food commodities market and protect the world’s population from the looming threat of dwindling food resources.

“Any long-term solution to global food security and sustainable agriculture begins with the soil. Soil health is not only about preserving life beneath our feet. It makes all life above ground possible, from plants to people,” Terrab said, highlighting the need to support farmers.

Betting on customized fertilizers

He also emphasized the importance of soil health and the use of customized fertilizers to ensure “sustainable high yields,” arguing that this strategy is critical to reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint.

“Healthier soil and increased biodiversity actively suck harmful carbon from the atmosphere, while maximizing yields per acre reduces global pressure to convert forests and grasslands to agriculture,” he added.

Terrab went on to say that tailor-made fertilizers that cater to the varying needs of different soils are “entirely possible” in Africa. Farmers on the continents are already reaping the benefits of advanced fertilizer technology, he said.

“Mobile laboratories are already crossing Africa collecting soil samples covering millions of hectares,” he said.

“With this data, farmers can map which parcels of land require what type of nourishment and when. More efficient application of the right fertilizer – only what the specific soil and crop needs and will use — reduces waste and run-off into ground and surface water.”

Aside from lowering production costs while increasing yields, tailor-made fertilizers have a significant socioeconomic impact by increasing farmer incomes and potentially lifting entire families out of poverty.

Terrab concluded his blog post by emphasizing the importance of accelerating the farming revolution through collaborative effort.

“There is much work left to do,” he stressed. “But having a goal is not just noble – it is necessary.”

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