Despite the rapid economic growth in the recent years in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, food insecurity is still a colossal issue that millions of people have to grapple with everyday. The various line organisations and governments in Africa tend to react most of the time to these challenges rather than being proactive.

Various reports indicate that women who are the backbone of the agriculture industry in the region still face challenges that prevent them from making headway in the area.

Reverend Marie Nizigiyimana from Burundi says that despite being largely involved in the agricultural sector, women are not yet recognised as key players and this in a way de-motivates them.

“The legal frameworks have made it impossible for women to participate fully in agriculture. Women are supposed to inherit land and there is a bill in parliament to that effect but since some legislators may not agree with this line of thinking, they are afraid to pass the bill. These are the just some of the issues that we are still grappling with,” states Marie.

Marie Nizigiyimana and Dr. Dick Seed at the Jumuiya Conference

Marie Nizigiyimana and Dr. Dick Seed at the Jumuiya Conference

A Senior Economic Advisor with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms Fatu Leigh, says that there has been rapid economic growth in recent years in the Sub-Saharan Africa region yet very little is being done to curb the situation.

According to the African Human Development Report 2012, the change in the national gross per capita income has been improving gradually since the 1980’s. However, between 2006-2008, the percentage of undernourished populations in other continents was less than 5 % compared to a larger part of Africa where numbers for the undernourished population was over 35%.

“Food insecurity by and large holds back the human development and the effects will be felt for generations as children are robbed of their future and parents of their dignity. It is a harsh paradox that Sub-Saharan Africa remains food insecure yet it doesn’t lack natural resources. The region has large tracts of fertile land, substantial amounts of surface and underground water as well as a favourable climate for growing food,” states Ms. Fatu.

Deeper causes to the issue at hand have been cited; misguided policies, lack of commitment as well as weak institutions in the various governments are just a few of the issues that many countries face.

“We need to start thinking about value addition for our crops. In Gambia we have a lot of mangoes that are going to waste. The farmers might as well make juice from the mangoes, but you find that most of them depend on selling them in the market,” states Ms. Fatu.

She says that it’s much more difficult for individuals or single countries to negotiate for better terms in trade and other areas and those blocs voices are heard much better. According to her, the MDG’s have made headway especially in the education and health sectors and that political leadership is key for any meaningful development to take place.

“Countries like Rwanda that majorly depend on donor-aid are taken more seriously and its voice seems to be heard more than even countries like Kenya. History is not destiny, Africans are not destined to starve,” she states.

She says that half a century ago, green revolutions in Asia and Latin America ushered in a steady flow of technological and scientific breakthroughs that conquered famine in those regions and ponders why Africa should be different. “Why does the spectre of famine still haunt us? The technology, experience and resources are available,” she laments.

Amon Chinyophiro representing National Small-holder Farmers Association of Malawi However, states that the green revolutions tend not to work in Africa because of issues to do with food sovereignty.

“The green revolution has forced many farmers to plant crops that are not culturally unacceptable to them and that is why it is failing in Africa. When new plants are introduced to farmers and the instructions indicate that they are supposed to use specific fertilisers or chemicals from a certain company that simply means that a market for those chemicals have already been created and that the purpose of introducing the crops was not to benefit the farmers but the manufacturers. Food sovereignty disappeared with the green revolution,” states Amon.

He also wondered why the church seemed to have the right technocrats yet it was not standing up to be counted in ensuring that they drive the agenda on Food Security.

Fatu reiterates that food security ought to be at the centre of the development agenda and it should extend beyond the sectoral mandates through better integration across a range of policy areas with leadership and active engagement from the highest levels of government.

She states that there are four key policy areas that need to be given special attention:

Increasing agricultural productivity, strengthening nutrition policies, enhancing resilience as well as empowering the women and the rural poor.

Increasing agricultural productivity means more sustainable uptake of inputs, smart subsidies, new seed varieties as well as improved access to credit. That governments need to invest in proper rural infrastructure to ensure that bottlenecks in markets are done away with.

Amon Chinyophiro (centre) having a discussion with fellow delegates

Amon Chinyophiro (centre) having a discussion with fellow delegates

Strengthening nutrition policies on the hand should aim at introduce programmes like the school feeding programmes which would ensure that the micro-nutrient uptake for Vitamin A, iron and Zinc is well taken care of. Improved basic services like healthcare, safe water and sanitation as well as removing inequalities in access to resources and opportunities, especially for women would enhance the food security situation.

Enhancing resilience means that sources of instability like the demographic pressures, and environmental stresses are addressed before they stabilise the farmers.

Empowering women and the rural poor, she says is intrinsic to human development vis a vis being instrumental for food security. By ensuring that their participation is boosted, it is likely to unleash their transformative.

That food security strategies and policies need to respond to new factors that are re-shaping the way food is produced and consumed.

“Demographic pressures and youth unemployment, dwindling natural resources, the volatile international food prices driven by surging demand for crops, including bio fuels and disruption in its supply are some of these factors. Climate change and fluctuating prices of agricultural inputs as well as fertilizer and oil should also be carefully scrutinised,” she stated.

“For too long, the face of Sub­-Saharan Africa has been one of dehumanizing hunger. Africa must stop asking for food aid- it is an affront to its dignity and potential. The shameful scenes of feeding tents and starving children that have been associated with the sub-Saharan Africa for far too long can be eliminated one and for all. The end of hunger and starvation in Sub-Saharan Africa is much overdue,” she states.

Fiona Imbali,

OAIC Communications.

 

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