Sustainable Pesticide Management Framework: Addressing the intertwined challenges of climate change, sustainable food systems and food security

In recent years, agriculture has gained significant attention during high-level discussions on climate change. The Africa Climate Summit and Africa Food Systems Summit that both took place
early September, and other similar platforms have rightly highlighted the importance of sustainable agricultural practices in mitigating climate change. While Africa has the potential to
feed the world and itself thanks to being the planet’s largest arable land, rising temperatures, extreme weather events, plant pests and diseases, leave millions of Africans experiencing hunger
and malnutrition; according to a UNCTAD’s 2022 report, nearly 60% of the African continent’s population experience food insecurity. Moreover, the alarming rate of inflation exacerbates this
precarious situation, making access to affordable and nutritious food even more challenging. Therefore, within current context of climate change, how to strike the balance between the
urgent need to transition towards sustainable food systems while unleashing Africa’s agricultural potential and therefore ensuring African people can afford three meals a day?
FAO estimates1 that, to satisfy the growing demand driven by population growth and dietary changes, food production will have to increase by 60% by 2050, which can notably be achieved thanks to the use of plant protection products (i.e., pesticides, biopesticides) recognized for their long-term role in sustainable agriculture and in ensuring food safety and food security. As this
must be achieved without jeopardizing our ecosystems or compromising the health and safety of our citizens, it is essential to recognize that the road to sustainable agriculture involves a combination of technological advancements, policy reforms, and collaborative efforts. It is in this context that, so far, CropLife Africa Middle East has launched the Sustainable Pesticide
Management Framework (SPMF) in two significant agricultural countries in the region: Kenya in 2021, and in Morocco in 2022, serving as a vital tool to address these intertwined challenges of
climate change, sustainable food systems and food insecurity. The SPMF is a proactive and longterm engagement over 5 years and for which over 13$ million dollars are being invested by the
industry. The core ambition of the SPMF is to protect human health, safeguard the environment and optimize agricultural productivity. It is based on three pillars: reducing reliance on Highly
Hazardous Pesticides 2 ; increasing innovation; ensuring responsible and effective use of plant protection solutions.

I am very proud to note that, both in Kenya and Morocco, the SPMF has already demonstrated changes, notably with regards to the fast-tracking adoption of low-risk products, the introduction of innovations within agriculture, and – via training programs and workshops -, the empowerment of farmers with the necessary skills and knowledge to adopt sustainable farming practices. The successful implementation of SPMF so far is possible, notably thanks to two key ingredients: the localization of the SPMF – as Africa’s agricultural systems vary significantly from a region to another, it is therefore imperative that any green transition strategies is adapted to local contexts -, and the collaborative approach. Indeed, coordinated efforts with key stakeholders along the food supply chain is key, and by working together – from farmers, researchers, policymakers, and other decision-makers – we can create a sustainable and resilient agricultural sector that not only increases productivity but also safeguards the well-being of our communities and environment. Still, a lot remains to be done. Moving forward, and in anticipation of COP28, it is important to recall that:

  • It is of utmost importance that leaders’ conversations center around finding the right balance between transitioning towards sustainable food systems while guaranteeing food security and preserving the livelihoods of farmers.
  • The attainment of a prosperous agriculture sector, capable of feeding an African population expected to double by 2050, while also meeting sustainability goals, requires:
  • appropriate legislative frameworks that foster agricultural innovation;
  • green transition strategies adapted to local contexts;
  • the removal of illegal pesticides (from the market) which cause the deaths of millions of people each year;
  • joint actions to reduce the potential risk associated to the use of pesticides as well as public-private partnerships.

As we cannot afford to delay action, let us seize this opportunity to strengthen collaboration, drive meaningful change, and make a lasting impact on the future of agriculture in Africa.

By Jerome Barbaron, President of CropLife Africa Middle East