The theme of this year’s Africa Day — "Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent" — couldn’t be more urgent. 

Celebrated on May 25, but also throughout the entire month of May, Africa Day is meant to honor the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and provide opportunities for realizing the full potential of the continent and its diverse cultures. 

Africa is one of the world’s many breadbaskets, home to powerful agricultural producers and hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers who anchor their communities and fill grocery store shelves thousands of miles away. 

However, the increasing pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and conflict have harmed the output of farmers, both big and small. As a result, many African countries import a significant amount of food to ensure people can eat. With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, food availability has shrunk and food prices have soared, putting it out of reach for millions of people. With little relief in sight, a rapidly growing hunger crisis is gripping the continent.

“Many countries in Africa were already in a food crisis,” Lena Simet, senior researcher on poverty and inequality at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Rising prices are compounding the plight of millions of people thrown into poverty by the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring urgent action by governments and the international community.”

The World Food Programme reported that hunger in large sections of Africa could increase by 20% — affecting 174 million people — if the Russian invasion of Ukraine doesn’t end soon.  

Even before the war, nearly two-thirds of people in Africa struggled to afford a healthy diet, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization. This widespread lack of nutrition affects children most of all, setting them up for debilitating health conditions and making it harder for them to succeed in school. 

Ending the hunger and nutrition crisis is fully possible. Everyone in Africa — and around the world, for that matter — can and should be provided with all the food and nutrients they need to thrive. 

Here are four clever innovations led by people in Africa to increase food availability and improve nutrition.    

1. Solar-Powered Cooling

Image: Courtesy of Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu

A major challenge for smallholder farmers in many African countries is a lack of electricity and cool storage options. As a result, up to 40% of crops end up rotting in sub-Saharan Africa before they’re sold to people. Across the continent, more than 572 million people lack access to electricity across the continent, according to the International Energy Agency.

Dozens of savvy entrepreneurs are helping farmers overcome this problem with innovative cold storage systems. In Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu developed solar-power cold storage rooms to be deployed at markets. In Kenya, Dysmus Kisilu has been providing solar-powered cold storage units to off-the-grid communities. 

2. Zero-Waste Food Bus 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences for communities around the world, especially those living in poverty. After South Africa imposed a shutdown to contain the public health emergency, more than 1 in 5 people in the country reported that they could not get enough food.

That’s when the activist Ilka Stein decided to open a mobile, zero-waste food bus that would provide meals to poor communities. Since it’s begun driving around neighborhoods, the bus has helped mitigate hunger and give families nutritious alternatives to processed fast food. 

3. Pest Control via Mobile Phones

The push-pull method in a Maize field.
Image: AFRICAP via University of Leeds

Pests pose a constant threat to farmers worldwide, and warming global temperatures have both expanded their ranges and life spans — putting even more crops and livelihoods at risk. 

In Kenya, scientists have developed a “push-pull” method of farming that takes advantage of the inherent pest-repellent qualities of certain plants to protect entire harvests. To popularize the method, the team worked with developers to create an easy-to-use mobile app that advises on best practices.

The early results have been promising: farmers have reported damage from a specific pest has declined five-fold and harvests have nearly tripled. 

4. Aquaponics 

Image: AquaFarms Africa via Wiatta Thomas

As growing water scarcity looms over much of the world, farming in water seems like a waste of a precious resource. But aquaponic farming actually uses 90% less water than traditional methods, while being entirely organic.

In Guinea, two entrepreneurs founded AquaFarms Africa to provide communities with cheap and nutritious food and expand aquaponics opportunities for young people throughout the continent.

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