AFRICA CURRENTLY STANDS at crossroads, hedging against food insecurity. Experiences across the regions uniformly indicate grim prospects and of vulnerabilities. Something drastic needs to happen to halt the drift. Here is the big question: How would Africa feed itself amidst the combination of negative factors that make agriculture more of a nightmare than a delight?
The question becomes all the more pertinent against the backdrop of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, with Africa’s rising population estimated at 1.286 billion in June 2018 and projected to peak at about and 1.71 billion in 2030. SDG 2 specifically aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition as well as promoting sustainable agriculture.
It is feared, however, that the goal and current realities may indeed prove to be poles apart. If more than one quarter of the region’s population is suffering from hunger, according to the Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, in its publication titled ‘2016 Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition: The Challenges of Building Resilience to Shocks and Stresses,’ it means the situation could worsen over time if adequate measures are not in place to remedy the situation in line with the SDG2.
The 2013 African Union High-Level Meeting on Renewed Partnership for a Unified Approach to End Hunger in Africa led to a declaration to end hunger on the continent by 2025, relying on sustained momentum behind the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). But declarations are what they are – declarations. Concrete steps toward transforming a declaration into actual deliverables need to be articulated and embarked upon.
This declaration would have been regarded as a companion to SDG 2, but it sounds like a tall ambition, considering the facts and realities on the ground. For instance, the Inaugural Biennial Report emanating from this AU high-level body reveals that commitment number 3, code-named “Ending hunger by 2025”, is not on track, with a score of 1.62 compared to a benchmark of 3.17 in 2017.
Startling revelations about the state of food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa, contained in the FAO report, affirm that 26 per cent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa suffered from severe food insecurity in 2014 and 2015. The disclosure that many countries in Africa continue to rely heavily on food imports despite the production of 110 per cent of dietary energy supply required is an irony and a contradiction in terms.
Are these not corroborating the assertions on ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017,’ which recognised that despite a prolonged decline, world hunger appears to be on the rise again? A closer look will reveal the truism that climate-related shocks and associated vulnerabilities trigger conflicts in pockets of areas in Africa and diminish the continent’s agricultural and livestock productivity.
A complex interplay of factors which predispose Africa to vulnerabilities are responsible for disruptions, namely: unstable markets, infrastructural deficit, de-industrialisation, rising commodity prices and natural disasters. FAO’s analysis elected to accord Africa the inglorious and unenviable accolade of the poorest region of the world.
It must nonetheless be noted that several countries and regional economic blocs have made considerable progress towards aligning “agricultural and other policies, programmes and investments related to food security and nutrition with the Zero Hunger vision of the 2014.
Malabo Declaration and SDG 2,” as stressed in the High-Level meeting report.
The huge burden of development and the need to cope with limiting factors seem to have bogged Africa down terribly. Low agricultural productivity, climate change and environmental degradation, ageing farmers’ population, continued dependence on archaic mode of farming that relies more on manual labour, prevalence of pests and diseases, all contribute in no small measure towards the failure to come anywhere near SDG 2 or Africa’s lofty 2025 goal.
Recent estimates on food security and nutrition reveal that the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 20.8 per cent in 2015 to 22.7 per cent in 2016. This shows a rise from 200 million undernourished people in 2015 to 224 million a year after. If ending hunger is truly regarded as both a moral and an economic imperative and coupled with strategic concerted efforts, a 2030 could be considered feasible.
The prospects of feeding Africa in the future are inextricably linked to the climatic conditions. Dry lands make up 43 per cent of theAfrica’s land surface, 75 per cent of the area used for agriculture, and home to 50 per cent of the population, including a disproportionate share of the poor. Many of these are in remote areas, far away from reckoning and out of official policy and economic radar.
Most of them depend on natural resource–based livelihoods, such as herding and farming, while the ability of these activities to provide stable and adequate incomes has been eroding. Climate change, which is expected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, is stretching their coping ability to the limits in the absence of social safety nets and rising economic, social, political, and environmental vulnerability.
In spite of these, population growth, going up rapidly, has put pressure on a deteriorating resource base, particularly the land, and created favourable conditions for extreme weather events, unexpected spikes in global food and fuel prices, or other exogenous shocks which can easily generate full-blown humanitarian crises and fuel violent social conflicts.
The responses while addressing urgent short-term needs involve an array of unsustainable natural resource management practices, which result in severe land degradation, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss. Political leadership has, for the most part, failed to rise up to the challenges. Often, political expediency entailed overlooking such glaring problems.
Improving agricultural production and building resilience among the people are key components in the mix of solutions to the looming food insecurity. Nurturing resilience among the people living on dry lands will require addressing a diverse mix of economic, social, political, infrastructural and environmental vulnerabilities. Building resilience to shocks will include adapting to the effects of climate change and strengthening institutional response mechanisms.
Political will of leaders will be highly relevant here. Political leaders of nations will play enormous roles by honouring the commitments made in the Maputo Protocol to allocate 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development policy. They will also be needed to honour their Nationally Determined Contributions as outlined in the Conference of Parties’ documents signed by national leaders in Paris in 2015.
The fundamental causes of crises need to be addressed. Greater investment in agriculture and increased agricultural productivity will need to include irrigation facilities, mechanisation technology and value addition. Nations need to avoid diverting scarce resources meant for pursuing longer term development goals to mobilizing costly, short-term responses to humanitarian crises.
Africa needs harmonised governance of food security and nutrition by coordinating all efforts across sectors and among stakeholders on the continent. The leaders in the continent need find new ways of working with partners towards the ambition of ending hunger in Africa by 2025.
The momentum and current efforts in various countries need to be coordinated, integrated and aligned to slow down climate-induced environmental changes, reduce environmentally-induce conflicts, enhance food security, curb malnutrition and create wealth and prosperity. The vicious cycles of crises arising out of negligence and attendant complications might prove costlier than systematic and coordinated positive interventions. The time to avert these untoward consequences is now.
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