Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Mr. Thomas Witt

Regional Sustainable Energy Center of Excellence for Sub Saharan Africa, Nigeria & Code Earth

Dear Karki and Participants!

Representing the Regional Sustainable Energy Center of Excellence for Sub Saharan Africa in Nigeria which also covers agriculture as one of its major concerns, I thank you for the opportunity and your patience to let me comment on the New Food System Integrated Program and the topic in general.

We observe an enormous interest and pressure on the food production in Africa by all kinds of organizations which unfortunately often do not come with good or right intentions. It is no secret that Africa is receiving this special focus of interest as its full potential hasn’t been explored yet, but as much of an opportunity as fragile its social and environmental systems. It is paramount to not repeat errors from the past and other regions, rather look at it with the last opportunity to do it right. I truly believe that Africa could feed itself and possibly the world if it could use its full capacity to produce food through Nature-based Solutions sustainably without external inputs and by large extent by smallholder farming.

Let me begin with terminology. Terminology used must be well defined to not let it be diluted at any time. “Regenerative” for that matter is an absolutely undefined term that is constantly undermined by allowing for external inputs, i.e. chemical pesticides and herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, bio-stimulants, hybrid seeds and GMO. These have no place in sustainable agroforestry and Nature-based Solutions farming, and no place in Africa as once agreed by the African Union. In fact, they not only reduce yields from year 2-3 of their implementation, they kill the microbiome of the soil, its biodiversity, its nutrients, its water retention and its soil properties as it becomes a compacted dead soil that let the next rainfall wash out the chemicals in a run-off to the rivers and the sea. Here they kill the already decimated marine environment with a cocktail of thousands of other forever chemicals.

The acidification of the oceans will reach a pH value of 7.95-7.90 by 2045 at the current speed which will lead to carbonate life dissolving in the ocean and a total collapse of the marine life. This would impact at least 3 billion people near the coast depending of the ocean food chains. It also affects 50% of our oxygen production through photosynthesis on the globe, the other from the terrestrial source isn’t sure either if we don’t take care. The ocean stores a multiple amount of carbon than any terrestrial system, through CO2 transfer via a thin boundary layer at the surface of the ocean where all the chemicals accumulate and are given back to the atmosphere. The carbon gets stored in the carbonate life permanently unless it dissolves.

It is therefore the terminology we chose and its adherence that defines our future. Those inputs have no place in agroforestry systems and NbS-systems. Agroforestry systems have a multiple higher yield than any traditional farming method. These include all the NbS systems like pasturing, permaculture, polyculture, sustainable livestock farming and, of course, trees on farmland. Livestock is key to many of these landscapes. It is a myth that wildlife and lifestock unless industrialized shall be a major contributor to methane emissions. They always existed. Methane emissions result predominantly from unsealed oil wells and hydrocarbon storages, melting permafrost, methane soil explosions in Siberia, warming Arctic sediments, and many other sources.

In the Sahel zone, there is a constant conflict between farmers and nomadic herders. This problem must be wisely handled but there are ways in NbS farming that can allow for it with mutual respect. NbS farming also means smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers are key in Africa. FAO-FARA Network of which I am a member of had explored underutilized and forgotten crops in 2021/22. Uttermost biodiversity in crops is the only way to adapt to climate change. The crops mentioned are rather Western staple crops, often used with external inputs, with less nutrition value than African crops which are ultimately better equipped to withstand climate change. Open fields are exposed to desertification as they can’t hold the water and the wind blows away the upper soil layer. The desertification goes on about 27 km per year southbound on average. Groundwater must be handled wisely, may it often be the last resort of survival. It must not be wasted for applications that consume water but don’t give back.

We can support smallholder farmers with all they need to produce food, store it properly and bring it fresh to markets. This is ultimately a systemic development approach which stretches to all SDGs. In all efforts in Africa, the remaining wildlife biodiversity (animals and plants) must be preserved by all means. Where regeneration and carbon storage have a place is in one of the world’s largest mangrove areas, the Niger Delta; mangroves are one of the most important carbon storage areas and the breeding ground for fish and other marine life.

It also must be avoided to destroy or clear any corridor or build water dams into rainforests, particularly in the DRC as it will destroy the ancient habitats.

To feed the world sustainably recognizing climate change it is most important to not repeat errors from the past.

Thank you,

Thomas M H Witt

MSc Atmospheric Physics (University of Hamburg)

Environmental Conservation Specialist

Environment, Health & Safety Professional

RSECESSA, Abuja, Nigeria