Transforming Africa’s Food Systems through Renewable Energy

Excerpt from energycapitalpower.com

The African continent faces two distinct, yet kindred problems: energy and food security. In 2021, roughly 570 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacked access to electricity, resulting from a combination of insufficient installed capacity, grid reliability issues, high electricity costs and inadequate energy infrastructure. Meanwhile, Africa faces a mounting food insecurity crisis, in which over 20% of the population suffers from hunger. According to data from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, acute food insecurity on the continent has increased by 60% to 100 million Africans in the past year, made worse by COVID-19 and weakened global supply chains, climate change and shifts in agricultural yields, political crises and reduced purchasing power, and ongoing regional conflict and displacement.

Moreover, food insecurity comes at a high cost. According to the African Development Bank, the continent spends $64.5 billion importing food commodities that could be produced locally, including rice, beef, soybeans, sugar and wheat. This figure is projected to increase to $110 billion by 2025. With disruptions from climate change and the pandemic looming, decentralized, renewable energy resources – in which the continent is rich – have emerged as a critical solution to boosting food productivity and establishing more resilient food systems, while decarbonizing the energy system and generating much-needed electricity.

Renewable energy-powered technologies have been proven to mitigate some of the damaging effects of climate change (drought, extreme weather, erratic rainfall, etc.) on food production. Solar water pumps, solar-powered mills and solar-powered refrigeration systems, for example, are able to improve irrigation, agro-processing and cold storage, respectively, by providing reliable, affordable and clean energy to rural farmers. In fact, solar power is estimated to be able to support the irrigation of 6-14 million new hectares, which could augment agricultural yields by up to two- to three-fold, along with reducing irrigation energy costs.