[DAR ES SALAAM] African leaders must have strong political will to tackle food insecurity as a new report shows that hunger is increasing after years of decline on the continent, an expert says.
According to the report which was launched in Ethiopia this month (13 February), Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by hunger, undermining the continent’s efforts to attain the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aims to ”end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030”.
Data presented in the report shows that globally there were 821 million undernourished people in 2017, with 257 million of them in Africa and 237 million in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 20 per cent of the population in Africa is undernourished.
“There should be political will of all African leaders towards advocating nutrition. When the leaders advocate, it indirectly becomes a directive.”
Peter Simon Mamiro, Sokoine University of Agriculture
The report adds that the increased problem of malnourishment may be traced to a recent rise in food insecurity, difficult global economic conditions and weak commodity prices, in particular for oil and minerals.
“Most conditions [causing hunger] may be associated with external factors. However, what determines success in food security and nutrition is the extent to which countries have built capacities and systems to enable them withstand and respond to the impacts of these factors,’’ says Abebe Haile-Gabriel, the UN FAO’s regional representative for Africa.
Haile-Gabriel tells SciDev.Net that the high number of people affected by hunger in Africa reflects a high level of people’s vulnerability and how they are marginalised in socio-economic activities.
Majority of the poor in Africa reside in rural areas and are making a living from low agricultural productivity, he explains.
The UN FAO and the Economic Commission for Africa jointly prepared the report by collecting data on food security and nutrition from sources such as the World Bank, UNICEF and the WHO.
Haile-Gabriel says that through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, governments are urged to commit at least ten per cent of their respective national budgets to agriculture.
“There have been continuous efforts in facilitating experience sharing and mutual learning on good practices within Africa but also between African countries and countries in South America and Asia,’’ he explains.
Peter Simon Mamiro, a retired professor at the Department of Food Technology, Nutrition and Consumer Sciences, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania, says that the report has come at a timely moment when almost every country is experiencing human catastrophe. “There should be political will of all African leaders towards advocating nutrition,” urges Mamiro. “When the leaders advocate, it indirectly becomes a directive.’’
But according to Ramadhani Noor, a research associate at the US-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Africa must create an enabling environment for agricultural productivity through maintaining peace and stability.
“You will find [that] pockets of food insecurity are related to war zones or places where there is political unrest resulting in food prices going up,’’ says Noor, who is an expert in global nutrition.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.