Investing in new off-grid and mini-grid technologies to extend energy access will be instrumental in helping smallholder farmers meet rising food demand, says a new report.
The report, ‘Policy Innovation To Power the Transformation Of Africa’s Agriculture and Food System’, says the rapid spread of off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy solutions offers hope that Africa can leapfrog outdated and dirty technologies, with almost five million families installing solar home systems in 2018.
The report by leading African and international experts in policy agriculture, ecology, nutrition and food security, Malabo Montpellier Panel, however, says achieving this universal energy access will require a fourfold increase in investment to $120 billion by 2040.
“As demand for food continues to grow globally, universal access to energy will become an urgent necessity, both for the production, processing and consumption of more nutritious food,” said Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, which met in the Gambia for the Malabo Montpellier Forum.
“Access to reliable, affordable and sustainable sources of energy to prepare land, plant, harvest, process, distribute and cook food, will ensure that Africa’s agricultural sector can respond to this demand, all within the context of climate change and increasingly scarce natural resources.”
The panel has also highlighted the need to ensure access to benefit African women, in particular, allowing them to spend less time collecting fuel for cooking and heating, and benefiting from pollution-free homes.
Around 600,000 people die every year in Africa from noxious fumes produced by cooking stoves and fuelwood — more than the annual global deaths caused by malaria.
Overall, cooking accounts for more 70 per cent of household energy usage in Africa, compared with less than 10 per cent globally.
The panel analysed six African countries that had made significant progress in connecting rural areas to energy sources in its latest report.
Among them was Ethiopia, where access to electricity doubled between 2010 and 2016, partly through the Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy launched in 2011.