The total population of the East African Community is 143.5 million, but by 2025, the region will be hosting an extra 40.8 million people, meaning the five countries will be required to produce more food.
"The region will not only be required to produce enough food for its growing population but also ensure that is nutritious and accessible to all at any given time. This is what self-sufficiency in food production means," said agricultural economist George Mwangi.
There are several reasons why self-sufficiency in food production has remained elusive in the region. According to FAO, East Africa is facing a high level of land degradation.
The latest study, conducted by the Montpellier Panel, comprising agricultural, trade and ecology experts from Europe and Africa, supported this assertion, warning that the continent’s crop yields could decline further due to reduced soil fertility as a result of land degradation.
"In Africa, 65 percent of arable land, 30 percent of grazing land and 20 percent of forests are already damaged," the panel says.
As a result, the study adds, the average yield of cereals like rice and wheat in sub-Saharan Africa has remained low compared with other regions at about one tonne per hectare, while in India, it is about two-and-a-half tonnes, and in China it is more than three tonnes per hectare.