Greater awareness of environmental and social issues and serious sustainability concerns around industrialised agriculture and food production are driving the biggest trend in agri-food: Food Systems Change.
The conversation is gaining traction, and the implications are huge. If we don’t find better ways of growing and sourcing food, life on our planet is over.
The need for change is so urgent that 2021 will see the nations of the world participate in the first UN Food Systems Summit, to “unleash ambitious new actions, innovative solutions, and plans to transform our food systems and leverage these shifts to deliver progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The UN says, “Everything and everyone must change.” Change at this scale means that environmentally and socially damaging agri-food practises that are currently the status quo are now becoming a problem that needs to be solved urgently. And big problems are big opportunities for innovative young entrepreneurs.
Big Problems in Agri-food
Problems that need to be addressed are not new, but new, effective, real solutions are of the highest importance.
Malnutrition and undernutrition are affecting tens of millions across Africa, from South Africa to Madagascar to Kenya to Nigeria.
At the same time massive amounts of food goes to waste because of poor roads, lack of cold storage and transport, poor crop handling techniques, and lack of access to markets. Even once food reaches consumer levels, 17% goes to waste. DownToEarth reports, “Around 23 million 40-tonne trucks would be needed to transport this waste and if they stood bumper to bumper, they would circle the Earth seven times.”
Many established agricultural practises are now understood to be very harmful to the environment leading to toxic pollution, biodiversity loss, erosion of valuable topsoil, and decreased resilience against pests, both on land and in the oceans.
In the agriculture and food sectors, gender, race, and cultural inequalities have to be addressed. The strengths we all bring to the table must be acknowledged, appreciated and rewarded fairly. And access to training, to keep up to date with global food systems changes that affect local export production, is essential to prevent new gaps from becoming barriers.
Another pressing issue is that some of the hardest workers are suffering because they are not receiving fair compensation for their products. The chocolate stand-off in Ivory Coast and Ghana is a sad example of a skewed power relationship in the food system that needs to change.
And overshadowing everything that humans have control over, is the increasingly erratic and extreme weather patterns, droughts, floods and disease that are caused by climate change. Added vulnerabilities like the locust swarms that decimated crops in 2020 and the COVID pandemic mean better buffers, more resilient food production methods, and are needed that do not rely on favourable climate conditions to provide food.
These are serious problems. At times, it can feel overwhelming. That is exactly why Africa needs young, optimistic entrepreneurs who see emerging opportunities when they look deeply at these issues.
The big question is, are you a problem solver?
Can you harness a smart solution to any of these problems and build an entrepreneurial venture?
Dig into the mechanics of trendspotting, and do a deep dive to understand how problem-solving can put your business first.
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