Africa Day... taking a closer look at food security & hunger

The right to food is a globally recognized human right, yet according to the World Food Programme, statistics on sub-Saharan Africa indicate that this is one of the regions in the world experiencing the highest prevalence of hunger.

Even more concerning is that the population of Africa is increasing rapidly. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations more than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. In fact, Nigeria’s population is the fastest growing population in the world, and is projected to exceed that of the United States by about 2050.

So how do we address hunger? 

The United Nations has recognised this concern, and it launched The Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012. According to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, “Achieving Zero Hunger is our shared commitment. Now is the time to work as partners and build a truly global movement to ensure the Right to Food for all and to build sustainable agriculture and food systems.”  The Zero Hunger Challenge aims to end hunger, eliminate malnutrition and develop sustainable food systems. It is seen as a shared global goal and a means to unite all stakeholders in a united effort to attain food security and end hunger. The 5 elements of the challenge are:


• 100% access to adequate food all year round
• 100% increase in smallholder productivity & income
• Zero stunted children less than 2 years
• All food systems are sustainable
• Zero loss or waste of food

You can read more on the Zero Hunger challenge here 


So how do we ensure food security?

Food security refers to the ability of individuals to obtain sufficient food on a day-to-day basis. Food security exists on a larger scale when the people in a region or continent have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to meet their dietary needs so that they are able to live a normal, active life.

Despite the challenges faced on the continent, Africa has come far in recent years. According to a statement from FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, Africa has achieved a 30 percent drop in the proportion of its people facing hunger over the 1990-2015 period. But as populations increase, so does the need for food; and climate change, conflict and social inequality are additional obstacles to the goal of eradicating hunger and attaining food security.

Agriculture is a key to food security, not just through the direct production of food, but also as a means to alleviate poverty by reducing food prices, creating employment, and improving quality of life for workers. This is why agriculture is a key factor in addressing food insecurity and supporting economic growth. Increased investment in agriculture is vital to help redress the current inequalities experienced on the continent.

Africa has 25 percent of the world’s arable land, yet it generates only 10 percent of global agricultural output. The reasons for this are varied and include outdated technologies, machinery and farming techniques; irrigation constraints due to limited access to water; lack of proper soil management strategies; poor use of fertilizer and post-harvest losses, which all have an effect on productivity and outputs.

With such a large proportion of the world’s arable land to be found in Africa, the need to address these challenges and develop sustainable agricultural practices and techniques on the continent is essential to eliminating hunger. In fact, in their 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report, the FAO indicates that within sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural growth can be 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in non-agricultural sectors.

And so today, as we celebrate Africa Day 2016, we acknowledge that as a continent we have many challenges when it comes to food – but we also realise that we have a great deal of potential, and if we work together we have the ability to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge and ensure that every inhabitant of this beautiful continent has access to safe, nutritious food.

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