Africa needs to diversify crops to achieve nutrition security, study suggests

The study, which focused particularly on South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, looked at the potential impact of climate change, as well as Africa’s population increase, on nutrition security on the continent.

Speaking to stakeholders from each of these countries, including representatives from government, civil society, academia and the agricultural sector, the researchers looked at several scenarios for potential nutrition security in the future (specifically 2050). The main factor of uncertainty chosen between the different scenarios was the level of climate risk present.

Furthermore, by country, researchers chose the effectiveness of policy implementation (Malawi); the extent of land reform (South Africa); technological transformation (Tanzania); and the degree of market connectivity and functionality (Zambia). Researchers used the integrated Future Estimator for Emissions and Diets (iFEED) model to predict these scenarios.

While some risks were present in almost all scenarios, such as the risk of severe weather associated with climate change, one thing that lowered risk to nutritional security significantly was found to be crop diversification.

The benefits of crop diversification

Crop diversification can significantly bolster nutrition security​, because it mitigates the impact of disasters that may wipe out a single crop. Factors such as disease and crop pests may target and destroy a single crop more quickly and effectively than a diverse range of crops, meaning that a monocrop food system is at far greater risk.