Africa’s population is expected to grow by 25% by 2050, creating an expanding middle class population that will require an affluent protein diet, Agricultural Research Council (ARC) research institute manager Dr Misheck Mulumba said on Wednesday.
Addressing delegates at a public awareness day hosted by the ARC, in Pretoria, he said this presented potential for South Africa to export more animals and animal products to the rest of the continent.
“South Africa has a competitive agricultural advantage, which is suited to exploit this growth trend, especially in terms of the quality and value of our animal products,” he said.
He added that this was evidenced by the high-quality research facilities in the country, as well as its diagnostic facilities, the accreditation of South Africa’s laboratories and the holistic nature of the agricultural sector.
“We also have a modern economy that has the ability to attract more skilled manpower. This presents powerful incentives that can translate into trade in animal and animal products, and significantly reduce food and nutrition insecurity, increase income for rural farmers and alleviate poverty,” Mulumba stated.
He pointed out that South Africa remained a net importer of livestock products, which presented a challenge in increasing production activities to meet national needs, as well as for export.
Meanwhile, the wildlife ranching sector was growing and was important, especially in marginal areas, which traditionally are not suitable for livestock production.
“Wildlife ranching may be a very profitable alternative in marginal area land use, but it is yet to be shown to have food security value to the same extent as livestock ranching,” Mulumba noted, adding that wildlife ranching provided a niche export market for South Africa.
Promoting synergies in policy between wildlife and livestock farming, which, at the moment is lacking or, at best, largely inadequate, is also critical, he added.
Mulumba further pointed out that the agricultural sector in the Eastern Cape is expected to be the worst affected by climate change.
He explained that climate change would contribute to more land use changes that would have an impact on farming and eventually on the agricultural sector as a whole.
He added that, in the North West, climate change had already increased the risk of transboundary diseases, owing to the change in expansion of the vector and pathogen range.
Mulumba stressed the need to improve farmer support in the provision of diagnostics, disease control and developing better vaccines.
“It is also crucial to invest in research for the development of more hardy breeds that can better withstand adverse climatic changes, as well as research in animal disease interventions, informed by regular disease prioritisation, and underpinned by sound epidemiological knowledge.”