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Why are we hungry?

by Ruth Aine - 30 September 2013

Food insecurityAfrica’s backbone is agriculture. It is our greatest resource. It is to Africa as industrialization was to Europe in the 1800s during the Industrial revolution. While this is my opinion, and I know that we are all entitled to our opinions, but I think that we have a dire situation at hand.

Sub-Saharan Africa today has 265 million people that are hungry. They are neither from the Indian Islands nor from the Maghreb region. 70% of the land in Africa is arable. We, by far, have the best climate, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and our soils at the moment use very little fertilizer if none at all to be productive. The fertilizer, if used, is organic. And yet with those credits, a large percentage of the people on the continent go to bed hungry. According to the African Development Bank a lot of aid has been given to Africa to help it combat the hunger crisis. Sub-Saharan Africa in the last 40 years has received about US$4.6 million per annum towards this cause. Does anyone feel the impact of this grant or aid? If so, why are we still hungry?


Tayani Banda, a young farmer from Malawi, says the US$4.6 million in hunger aid is actually an underestimation. Too much money goes into this every year, yet we call ourselves farming communities!! According to Tayani, Africa has a vast bank of research knowledge that is rotting in the archives and its right there in black and white. “This is because we are very good at NOT putting to use the knowledge we have. For example the south most tip of Malawi is so fertile and so well supplied with water; and research has it that that portion alone can feed the whole country, yet the situation on the ground is that every year it receives food aid. Why? Flooding! Government does not unleash and flex its policy muscle to relocate these people from the banks of the river. Politicians capitalize on crises to make a mark and secure the next vote! Young people can take them on face to face to explain what they are doing about long-term policies to really address this problem! Are young people involved in the process? Do they see this as an opportunity?”

That is one of the realities in the African food security hunger situation.


The Action Plan by the African Union, FAO and United Nations [as contained in our Food Insecurity Bibliozone] on improving statistics for food security, sustainable agriculture, and rural development from 2011 to 2015, states that many African countries continue to face the related challenges of eradicating poverty and finding sustainable solutions to malnutrition and food insecurity. For most of them, poverty and food insecurity are fundamentally rural phenomena as the majority of the poor and undernourished people live in rural areas and are dependent on rural-based activities for their livelihoods. Therefore, any strategy geared in achieving significant reductions in poverty and food insecurity in Africa must concentrate on rural areas and rural populations. And because it is widely considered a rural affair, the elite and middle class never think of hunger. Obviously because they can afford food, they earn enough to cater for their basic needs and are not necessarily dependent on the economy.

Furthermore, the road map suggests that for efforts to achieve the expected results, they must be based on accurate information, focus on the right targets, and have their results regularly assessed. In this respect, decision makers need timely and reliable data to analyze constraints, identify benchmark indicators, set quantifiable objectives, monitor implementation, and measure the impact of policies and programs. Yet, despite the unquestionable importance of agriculture and the rural economy, it is arguably the least-known sector of the economy, in terms of hard facts and statistics. We don’t have much in terms of data of how many farmers are out there, all because of the notion that farming in Africa has taken on. It is regarded as the poor man’s job but also a dirty career.


¹And this is not about to change: Temitope Folaranmi in Food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa: Current trends, causes and consequences, says that the food security outlook in Africa is worrisome, as Africa’s population is expected to increase from 1.01 billion in 2009 to 2 billion in 2050 if current demographic conditions remain constant. Much of this growth will be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa , where annual population growth rates are expected to range from between 1.6% to slightly more than 2.4% between 2010 and 2050. How will Africa be able to cope with its food security challenge? Will it be able to cope?

We know the causes of food insecurity: Poverty, political instability, climate change, disease epidemics, to mention but a few. The consequences we continue to see - malnutrition, micronutrient disease, high maternal and child mortality rates - continue to plague us. And Africa, robust with all its resources, is still hungry and will continue to be so for a couple of years.



Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.



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