A woman with a basket on her head, with a malnourished child at her side with obvious internal bone structure displayed, due to lack of proper feeding, suffering, poverty, hunger and food insecurity. This is a typical picture of what many go through in Sub-Saharan Africa. One might say to him or herself, “I don’t look that bad, I feed well and look good.” The sad truth is that billions all over the world are hungry and we should all be concerned for our future and for that of generations to come.
WHAT THE STATS SAY
Let’s take a brief journey into what reports, researches and findings have to say about food security in Africa and the world in general. A 2012 FAO report, State of Food Insecurity in the World, revealed that about 870 million people are estimated to have been undernourished from 2010 to 2012. This represents 12.5 percent of the global population or, in other words, one in eight people. Moreover, out of this 870 million, 852 million live in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, 216 million people suffer from food insecurity.
These figures are alarming and show how glooming the future is and can be, if nothing is done. It is the responsibility of every man and woman in Africa to begin to see the role they play, regardless of their capacity, to ensure food security in Africa, now and in the future.
Before we go on to examine some actions to be taken, let us consider what food security entails and why we need to give it attention. The World Bank, after much deliberation, in 1986 defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active healthy life’’. Merely reading these words in plain English shows that all of us in Africa are far from been food-secure. Africa has an ever growing population with more and more children and youth, alongside a growing aging farming population, averaging 65 years. The question is, who would grow our food in the next 10 years? The adverse effect of climate change and the danger that comes along with it, all are good reasons for us to attend to ensuring food security from all quarters.
WHAT DO WE DO TO ENSURE A FOOD-SECURE FUTURE?
First of all, we all need to recognise that ensuring food security is a task for not only a selected few, but everyone. We all need to put our hands on deck, be you a father, a mother, a child, a youngster, government representative, scientist, farmer or activist. We all have a role to play in ensuring that food security is achieved in the long run. Let us examine a few points:
- Agriculture is big business: it is important that we no longer look at agriculture as a developmental aid, but as a business. Agriculture has the ability to provide not only food, but also income and materials to improve life. It is thus important that from all quarters there should be an increased investment in agriculture. The government, private sector players, NGOs, donor organisations and others, all have to increase investment in agriculture.
- Investment in youth: Africa is blessed with an energetic and passionate youth who are beginning to understand that they all have a role in shaping a future they want for themselves and generations to come. There is, however, an image problem towards agriculture, food production and it related fields. Many youngsters see it as punishment, others as a career for the poor. For these reasons there are a need for investment in advocacy, training, capacity building, incentives and commendation. This is to enable us to have an energetic, innovative and dynamic youth who would apply whatever education or training they have, to contribute to improved food production, nutrition, storage and distribution of food. Thus ensuring they are not only employed but also generating revenue that enable them live comfortable and fulfilled lives.
- Creating Enabling Environments: This applies mainly to government and its related agencies. Smallholders and rural dwellers need to have improved livelihood. For this to effectively take place the government has a big role in creating an enabling environment for them. It starts with proper policies such as those that would allow smallholders to have easy and convenient access to market. Social amenities, such as good roads, electricity, ICT and its services, water supply, storage facilities for farmers, etc., are all essential. Access to credit is also essential for smallholders and anyone willing to venture into the food production sector.
- Research and Development: With the raging effect of climate change, there is a big need for the development of new and well improved product varieties with inbuilt resilience to climate change, coupled with resistance to diseases and pests. Thus, there is a need for not only financial investment in research, but also for researchers and scientists who would achieve building human capacity and in the long run contribute to food security in Africa. This obligation can be overwhelming, but its potential for the present and future generations, supersedes any investment.
By and large, we all have a role to play. Governments, now than ever, need to invest more in agriculture, encouraging the private sector to participate as they do so. Poor farmers, smallholders, rural dwellers, youth and women need to be given special attention while this is done. The youth should also be dynamic enough to see the future that lies ahead if the continent is food-secure and thus be open-minded in changing their view of agriculture and its related fields. Parents should also be active in promoting agricultural activities among the younger generation, by having a simple backyard farm for example. The future of food security in Africa is bright and has a lot of potential to create better livelihood and improved socioeconomic conditions for us now and times to come.
This article was first published as a contribution to the FORESIGHT FOR DEVELOPMENT NEWSLETTER