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A growing population to feed

The African population is currently the fastest-growing in the world. It is projected to more than double in the next 30 years, with more than 2.5 billion people, and more than 4 billion by the end of the century.


Although this demographic explosion presents some great opportunities, it also presents significant challenges, as it puts pressure on key resources and infrastructure. Among these challenges, becoming self-sufficient in food is by far one of the leading geopolitical and socio-economical issues the continent will have to face in the 21st century.


However, with the right policies and investments, African countries can leverage this demographic trend to drive development and prosperity for their citizens.


Should we grow food for billions of animals instead of people ?

Is the Western model a solution for Africa?


Africa has a long-standing tradition of plant-based food, dating back from Ancient Egypt to pre-colonial times, when animals were mainly consumed for survival reasons, when there were not enough plants available. However, with the rapidly growing African population, the demand for animal products such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs has been increasing exponentially.


While some rural communities still consume occasionally animal products to survive, most of us, especially in cities, grew up consuming animal products, not for survival reasons, but simply because we enjoy the way they taste. As a result, factory farms are now on the rise all over Africa in order to keep up with the demand. However, that demand has significant consequences for African people, for Mother land, and for the animal kingdom, whose wellbeing is crucial to ours. This decade is therefore key to decide what food system should become the norm, in order to meet the needs of African people, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.


What is a factory farm?


Factory farm is an intensive farming system designed by the West after the World War, where animals are kept in cages, crates, or crowded together in pens, and only see the daylight on their way to the slaughterhouse. In most farms they are also genetically modified and selectively bred to grow as fast as possible, in order to maximise profits, despite the consequences on their health. This is now where most animal products come from in the West, but also in African cities.

However, in addition to unimaginable animal suffering, and the link between animal products and some of the deadliest chronic diseases on the rise in the continent, like certain types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, or heart diseases due to the high levels of LDL cholesterol found in animal products, more factory farms also mean significantly less available land and water, due to the vast amount of land needed to grow food, in order to feed billions of animals, in both Africa and abroad, instead of people in need.

Can these farms be a solution for the continent?

To meet the growing demand for animal products, Africa is now forced to set on fire rainforests, to free vast amount of land, mainly to grow crops for animal feed, which accelerates deforestation and releases even more greenhouses gas emissions, therefore increasing global warming and its consequences on African people. This farming system isn't just an issue in Africa but globally, which is why according to the UN, animal agriculture emits far more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes in the world, every year. Furthermore, in addition to indigenous tribe displacement, deforestation also accelerates species extinction, bringing us closer to the 6th mass extinction in History. As a result, humans have already wiped out 70% of all species in the past 40 years, yet our wellbeing depend on theirs.

Last but not least, factory farms also accelerate the risk of zoonotic diseases & pandemics, due to the highly crowded conditions where the animals are confined, which also increase the risk of a global antibiotic resistance crisis in the continent, due to the amount of antibiotics used to cure farmed animals, who get sick on a regular basis.

When eating animal products, these antibiotics get absorbed in our bodies, overtime creating bacterias that resists antibiotics, which can lead to serious health consequences and even death, since most diseases, viruses and infections are treated with antibiotics. That is why according to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”, already killing over 700 000 people per year. By 2050, antibiotic resistance is expected to kill over 10 million people every year, which is more than the number of people who die from cancer on a yearly basis.


Overall, in addition to ethical issues, developing factory farms in Africa would lead to additional health crisis, environmental degradation impacting people livelihoods, and would lead to further food insecurity and reliance on imports due to the lack of available land to feed both a growing human and animal population. From a geopolitical point of view, more factory farms could therefore prevent the continent from becoming self-sufficient in terms of food, compromising  Africa's future to become independent from Western and BRIC countries, which would go against Africa's best interests.


What about small local farms?

Ethical and health reasons aside, the issue with a system relying solely on smaller farms is that they cannot feed the growing African population, since even more animals will be required to keep up with the demand.


Due to the law of supply and demand, this system will inevitably increases the price of animal products, which will become only available to the most privileged people, creating further inequalities. In addition, due to the lack of land available, feeding more animals will ultimately lead to more deforestation, and therefore will accelerate global warming, species extinctions and zoonotic diseases risks.


To sum up, factory farms or small farms are not a sustainable system for Africa's future, since none of these models can meet the needs of African people, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

What about fish instead?

In order to feed the growing demand for fish and sea food, 3/4 of the world 's fisheries are already overexploited, fully exploited or significantly depleted, especially in Africa waters filled with Western and Chinese vessels, who exploit African waters for animal feed, domestic consumption, and export, leaving no chance to local fishermen whom many still rely on fish for their survival.


Globally, humans destroy nearly 4 billion acres of sea beds every year to feed humans, but also for animal feed. In comparison with land deforestation, humans destroy about 15 times more acres of sea bed each year. As a result, African waters are under siege like never before, although oceans are key to capture CO2 and provide us with oxygen. According to a study conducted by an international team of scientists published in the journal Science in 2006 ("Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Service"), we will see fishless oceans by 2048 if nothing is done, however if the oceans dies, so do we, since we depend on it.

That being said, fish farming is on the rise in Africa due to the growing population, increasing the demand for fish and seafood in the continent. To meet this demand, fish farming is now receiving support from African governments and NGOs, especially in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and DR Congo. However in addition to ethical and health concerns, just like factory farms with land animals, fish farms require to feed fish, sometimes with further fish that need to be captured, or with plant-based food that could be used for human instead, increasing food and water waste. In addition, fish farms increase the risk of a global antibiotic resistance pandemic, due to the amount of antibiotics used to cure infected fish who live in highly crowded conditions, creating the perfect conditions for parasites like sea lice.  Again according to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today".


Finally, just like local farms, non-industrial fishing face the same issue: it cannot meet the growing demand since more fish will be needed. Additionally, due to the low of supply and demand, a system solely based on small scale fishing will inevitably increases the price of fish and seafood, creating further inequalities.


Our solution ?

Contrary to popular beliefs, many African traditional dishes are already plant-based, and the most affordable food in the continent are made from plants, which is often what the less fortunate people consume like corn, rice, beans, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, lentils etc, instead of animal products which remain a luxury for many.

While we promote local African plant-based dishes, innovative and realistic meat and seafood alternatives made from locally sourced plants are needed as a complimentary option, for people who enjoy the taste of animal products, but do not want to contribute to its negative impact.


Soy, peas, wheat or fava beans are great crops to create meaty textures when blended and mixed with the right spices, but also cashew, lentils, jackfruits, banana blossoms, or mushrooms, which are great to create natural, unprocessed realistic meat and seafood alternatives with the right seasoning.


All these options are available in Africa, have significantly less negative impacts than animal products, and therefore are the most logical alternative to meet the demand of the growing African population. However these alternative must be sustainable, accessible, and affordable, without compromising on taste.

What could happen if we succeed?

While we are aware that a project of such a scale would take multiple generations to fully succeed, we believe that it is important to build the foundations for the next generations to come.

Instead of raising animals for food, these vast amounts of land and water could therefore be used to grow sustainable, accessible, affordable and tasty food for African people instead of animals, significantly reducing hunger and providing employment and business opportunities to entire African communities.


While producing what we need is key, restoring is is even more important. The rest of the available land could therefore be used to plant trillions of trees, restoring rainforests, biodiversity, and wildlife overtime, while capturing gigatons of C02 in the long term, reducing global warming, deforestation, food waste, water scarcity, species & indigenous tribes extinctions, as well as pandemic risks.


In addition to significantly less animal exploitation and suffering, bringing a plant-based food system back to Africa will allow the continent to feed our growing population, and be more self-sufficient overall. Ultimately if we are successful in the long term, African people will be able to meet their own needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.


Photo from Jam Delish - London

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