Jan 7, 2014, 9:40 AM
World Food Day on 16th October comes at a time where Africa is at a cross roads in its agriculture development.
Leading regional initiatives such as the Common Africa Agriculture Development Programme (known as CAADP) and international frameworks such as the Programme on Global Food Security reflect renewed momentum behind agriculture sector reform.
On the other hand, Africa continues to face real challenges in reducing the number of hungry and delivering lasting change to farmers unable to fairly participate in food markets.
In the developing world Africa, is one of the regions most affected by problems of hunger. More than 200 million people across the continent are affected by chronic malnutrition. Despite a fall in the total number of people affected by hunger since the global downturn, on average, one in three Africans remains hungry.
FAO is working in partnership with African governments, UN agencies and development stakeholders for hunger reduction in the region through a twin track approach of boosting food productivity and widening food access.
Hunger trends in the region can be related to a combination of factors such as low productivity and expanding populations, in addition to the increasing costs of food. Food prices in Africa have reached record highs following the food crisis of 2008 and are yet to return to their pre crisis levels. Importantly lack of access to food can also be attributed to poor marketing infrastructure.
Many African countries struggle to efficiently transport and deliver food due to poor roads and connection points. Those suffering from hunger are often facing the consequences of poor food distribution, a situation which is much worse for low income communities in remote rural areas.
Crop production especially for export crops, has increased thanks to advances in agriculture research and technology, and government policies to support farmers on input subsidies and market incentives.
FAO is working with farmers to tackle poor productivity through the distribution of inputs and tools designed to raise crop yields. In Northern Cameroon, hundreds of community seed enterprises have been established with FAO assistance, to enable farmers to produce seeds that are able to cope with a changing climate.
However, food production increases have not always translated into the equitable distribution for food in the region. Rising unequal access to food has been associated with problems of food poverty where vulnerable rural and urban communities are unable to afford basic food commodities due to lack of access to low cost nutritious food.
Focus on productivity alone has obscured issues of food access which is vital for finding solution to ending hunger in Africa. Widening channels for low income rural households to gain access to affordable food is a major priority to FAO in the region. Barriers to trade that restrict the distribution of food, spiraling food costs and the problem of dependence on food imports are issues at the heart of FAO interventions within the region.
In West Africa alone 430,000 people were assisted (covering 48,500 households) in the provision of crop inputs and training, raising $17M for targeted support to small holder farmers and rural households. The EU Food Facility, coordinated and led by FAO was launched in 2009 providing $ 166M in funding for Africa.
Elevating the voice of the poor in decision making on agriculture development is part of FAO’s strategy to deliver hunger reduction. FAO promotes the engagement of rural farmers’ organization in shaping the outcomes of national and regional policies on agriculture to ensure that their voices are heard.
Low capacity and limited resources have restricted the effectiveness of local farmers groups in Africa. FAO is supporting capacity building for producer organizations to give farmers greater influence on national strategies on hunger reduction.
World Food Day aims to raise awareness about the problems posed by hunger and to create support behind scaling up solution on malnutrition and rural poverty.
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food..”
George Bernard Shaw