• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why is Africa a hungry continent?

Hunger is widespread and chronic in Nigeria. Its prevalence is one phenomenon that statistics cannot fully capture. Not even the global hunger index does justice to it. Another angle

When we started Feed the Hungry project, we were not fully familiar with the grim reality of how a toxic cocktail of conflict, climate change, and the government’s failure to provide basic amenities has already left millions of people in Africa exposed to food price shocks and vulnerable to further crises.

We just wanted to see hungry people smile by providing food for them. As I landed in Kigali in advance for the African Heritage Award in recognition of our work in the zero hunger space, alongside former President Goodluck Jonathan and other distinguished African leaders in different spheres, I couldn’t but pounder on the paradox of plenty and why Africa should be poor and hungry?

There is no doubt that with the increasing food crisis, our food systems in their current form are inadequate to the task of sustainably ending poverty and hunger. This is especially true in countries that face the highest rates of undernourishment, child wasting, stunting, and child mortality due to malnutrition. Why have our food systems become inadequate to ensure that hunger is reduced?

According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, out of 54 countries, 37 African countries have levels of hunger that rate “Serious” or higher. Four countries in Africa rank among the hungriest: Chad, Madagascar and DRC all rank at “Alarming” levels of hunger in the 2022 GHI. There are some other countries with incomplete data for 2022 but assumed to be in the “alarming” range, such as Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. Last year, Somalia ranked as the world’s hungriest country with the only “Extremely Alarming” GHI ranking.

The question is – why is Africa faced with hunger when it can feed the world? This question finds bearing with plethora of social challenges like poverty, inequality, conflict, political instability, and climate change. Almost all these issues are man-made. There are however no shortcuts to complex challenges, a substantive response towards changing the broken food system is for governments to invest in critical infrastructure within the food system, including security.

Such infrastructure investment must go beyond national interventions, regional leadership is required, like the West African Agriculture Productivity Programme (WAAPP), a joint initiative of ECOWAS and the World Bank which deals with agricultural technology.

But it is not enough to initiate these projects, sustainable results are needed. In West Africa alone, there are many agricultural projects with the main objective to promote food and nutrition security in all the 15 member states and at the same time, constitute to the process of regional economic integration.

Governments at all levels have a duty to connect small-scale farmers to local markets while providing them with the resources to improve production, reduce their post-harvest losses, develop business skills and gain access to financial tools. More importantly, work to eliminate food loss and waste by providing farmers with modern storage equipment like silos and air-tight bags; offer long-lasting foods like flour, dried beans and salt – all properly packaged in sturdy containers; and invest in innovations like hydroponics that allow communities to grow, sell and store food in the harshest conditions.

At the national level, the right to food by every citizen is a critical component of achieving zero hunger. The right to food protects the right of all human beings to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Read also: Interventions needed to reduce 20m Nigerians suffering from hunger, malnutrition – Akintujoye

The right to food, and its variations, is a human right protecting the right of people to feed themselves in dignity, implying that sufficient food is available, that people have the means to access it, and that it adequately meets the individual’s dietary needs.

The Kigali consensus is that ending hunger and poverty in Africa is not a one-way traffic nor a one-off thing for heroic records, Africa needs shared responsibility to achieve shared prosperity.

Corporate social responsibilities from cooperations must be impact driven rather than just for the record; the government’s implementation of policies targeted at zero hunger and our collective commitments must go beyond the thin drops of tokenism. A hunger-free continent is possible but we must build it now.

Osadebay, executive director, T200 Foundation wrote from Kigali