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Assuring food and nutrition security in Africa by 2020

"One size will not fit all" and the time has come to "move from mere promises to action". These were just two of the opening statements made at the International Conference on 'Assuring Food and Nutrition Security in Africa by 2020', which was held in Kampala, Uganda from 1-3 April, 2004. More than 200 million people in Africa are undernourished. This is twice the number of people it was forty years ago and food and nutrition issues remain one of the biggest challenges for sustainable development in Africa. HIV/AIDS only compounds the problem.

So what priorities should policy-makers be focussing on to meet this challenge? With three African Presidents* attending the opening, and three days of discussion in Kampala between policymakers, researchers, civil society leaders and the media, it was hoped that some of these priorities could be further defined. The following points of view are taken from papers presented and interviews recorded at the conference.

*Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda; Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria; and Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal.

The extent of Africa's problems

Africa leads in hunger, malnourishment and undernourishment; Africa leads in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the experts assure us that unless an extraordinary effort is made by all of us, 40 million children on this continent will be malnourished by 2020.
H. E Yoweri Museveni, President, Republic of Uganda

While famines and other episodes of severe hunger receive considerable press coverage and attract much public attention, chronic hunger and malnutrition are considerably more prevalent in Africa. It is estimated that 14% of children are born with low birthweights each year and that around 45 million pre-school children are malnourished.
"Improving child nutrition in sustainable poverty reduction in Africa" Briefing paper by Harold Alderman, Jere Behrman, and John Hoddinot.

Malnutrition kills, maims, cripples and blinds the poor and vulnerable groups and plays a major role in half of the 10.4 million annual child deaths. It is a cause and consequence of disease and disability in children and is a key indicator of poverty and underdevelopment.
Ebrahim E. Samba, WHO/AFRO, Congo

Conflict is one of the primary causes of food insecurity in Africa. The destruction to basic social welfare, health infrastructure, and agricultural development, as well as population displacement contributes to diminishing food security and nutrition in Africa.
Graça Machel, President of the Foundation of Community Development in Mozambique; & former Expert of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

At the end of 2003, there were 40 million HIV infected people worldwide. It is estimated that 27 million were African, and of the 3 million deaths, about 80% occurred in Africa.
Alan Whiteside, Director, HEARD (Health Economics & HIV/AIDS Research Division), South Africa

Emphasising nutrition

Nutrition security is a critical investment for economic growth. More important, there is a considerable moral obligation to do so. Without such security, individuals are unable to fully exploit their full human potential and enjoy healthy and active lives.
"Africa's Food and Nutrition Security Situation - Where are we and how did we get here?" Keynote paper by Todd Benson, IFPRI

Nutrition in food security is like leadership in management. You ignore leadership, you write your bankruptcy report; you ignore nutrition, you sign your death warrant. It should be realized that food surplus will not automatically translate into achieving food security.
Courage Quashigah, Minister of Food & Agriculture, Ghana

When you talk about food production we are relying on people to produce the food, and as long as these people are malnourished, and as long as they are in poor health they cannot produce the food that they consume. So we have to focus on ensuring that the components of nutrition security are met in order to make the full use of their capacity to produce food.
Isatou Jallow, Executive Director, National Nutrition Agency, The Gambia, from an interview recorded at the conference with WRENmedia

It is not correct to argue that nutrition security is primarily a rural phenomenon. Poor sections of African cities commonly have a less hygienic environment than is found in rural areas. Regular wage employment is often difficult to find in cities, reducing access to food. Moreover, the proportion of the population living in urban areas in several of these countries is greater than one third.
"Africa's Food and Nutrition Security Situation - Where are we and how did we get here?" Keynote paper by Todd Benson, IFPRI

The need for education

Basic education is one of the most effective investments in improving economies and creating literate, self-reliant and healthy societies. Yet more than 46 million children are out of school in Africa, representing more than 40% of the world's out-of-school children. Girls are particularly at a disadvantage - more than 24 million of them are not in school.
Flora Sibanda-Mulder, Senior Advisor, UNICEF-WFP collaboration, Rome, Italy

Education has driven our productive youths out of the land to urban centres in search of white-collar jobs. Our youths have grown to be 'agrophobic'. Unless this trend is reversed, there will be need for a shift in Africa's food security support paradigm from education, perhaps to innovation and creativity.
Glyvyns Chinkhuntha, Freedom Gardens, Malawi

We have fine-tuned a course which induces them to see that farming can be a business. And first it is just sitting and actually analysing how much returns do you get if you grow carrots, how much returns do you get per month if you grow bananas. They see that really, if I become a farmer, I can put money in my pocket, I don't have to go and hang around in town in a shack. So there is an information base that graduates need to see.
Florence Wambugu, CEO, Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, from an interview recorded at the conference with WRENmedia

Mass education definitely makes a difference in agricultural output. Those who can neither read nor write, those without basic numeracy, cannot be relied upon to modernise our agriculture, and to achieve the quantities and quality we need to compete globally or even regionally.
H. E Yoweri Museveni, President, Republic of Uganda

The role of research

There will be no "silver bullets" for accelerating livestock development by the African poor. Governments, NGOS, agribusinesses and farmers, who understand the complexity, need to work together to raise Africa's production levels. Research has a central role to play in enhancing the learning process needed for such co-ordinated actions.
Carlos Sere, Director-General, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi

Greater gains from research will also depend upon reforming Africa's national agricultural research institutes. These organizations must forge stronger links to other stakeholders, from farmer groups to universities. A related challenge is to link formal research more effectively with grassroots efforts.
"Ending Hunger in Africa - Only the Small Farmer Can Do it", IFPRI publication

Researchers must generate a range of technologies that farmers can understand and afford, and where farmer-to-farmer diffusion is possible. For the high-potential areas, government investments should promote intensive production systems. In low-yielding marginal environments, technology's attention should focus on protecting and enhancing the natural resource base.
Norman Borlaug, President, Sasakawa Africa Association and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Heads of State and African governments must make a firm commitment to fund scientific research in general, with particular emphasis on agricultural research. To do this, they must allocate a certain percentage of their national budgets . . At the African Union summit in July 2003, a decision was made to devote at least 10% of each country's national budget to agriculture and rural development over the next five years. It would be interesting to examine the 2004 budgets of the countries that signed the Maputo Declaration in order to see what they have actually earmarked for agriculture and rural development.
Kankonde Mukadi, Professor, Protestant University of the Congo

Access to markets

Access to international markets is an absolute requirement for this region to reap the benefits of improved technologies and infrastructure upgrading. We cannot simply trade with each other, as we produce similar products.
Ajay Vashee, President, Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, Zambia

The economic future for Africa will depend on expanded intra-regional agricultural trade of food, raw and value added products.
Erastus Mwencha, Secretary-General, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Zambia

We should continue to press for fair trade opportunities for African countries in the world market; there is no other way. African agriculture has to be rendered competitive by preparing the key actors for the rough storms on international markets.
Bernd Eisenblätter, Managing Director, GTZ, Germany

Our role is to develop market information which will lead to increases in efficiency on how markets work. We believe that if smallholder farmers can access better markets at better prices, this is the incentive they need to invest in more productivity-increasing technologies.
Adrian Mukhebi, Executive Director, Kenya Agriculture Commodity Exchange, from interview recorded at the conference with WRENmedia

The way forward

Your task as African leaders is to find African solutions for the problems Africa is facing. We can only support your efforts. This is why the concept of 'partnership' and 'ownership' are two of the pillars of our relations with ACP countries.
Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

The strategies under the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) are indicative to a shift in the right direction, and illustrate the political will that exists to make positive changes on the continent. There will never be peace without development, and considering the long-term devastating effects of conflict, we have no choice but to push the development agenda forward, and together build the capacity of Africa.
Graça Machel, President of the Foundation of Community Development, Mozambique

Trade liberalization and increased aid to agriculture will not create economic growth, however, without a commitment to good governance. Good governance means, among other things, government effectiveness, reduced corruption, and rule of law - better and smarter regulation, contract enforcement, and the protection of property rights.
Emmy Simmons, Assistant Administrator, USAID, USA

Success will depend on having conducive policies, adequate institutions, improved market infrastructure, social safety nets, and most importantly, peace and stability; and all of these must be sustained over time.
Victoria Sekitoleko, FAO Subregional Representative for Southern and East Africa, Zimbabwe

Improving implementation needs policies and institutions that facilitate grass-root planning whereby constraints are identified, opportunities are exploited and priorities set. The challenge is to put in place suitable policy and institutional reforms and effective monitoring mechanisms to keep pace with the development paradigm shift.
Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa, Minister of Agriculture, Animal, Industry, and Fisheries, Uganda

There is a need for holistic development and creation of a conducive environment. If the environment is not attractive, the young and able bodies migrate to the urban areas even though there are no jobs. The myth that every African is a farmer must be killed. Vibrant industry and trade are vital elements of successful agriculture.
Robbie Matongo Mupawose, Chairman, Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe

Technologies alone cannot solve the challenges in Africa. Complementary factors such as agricultural policies, removal of unfair subsidies, trade liberalization, encouragement of the private sector, access of farmers to credits, and political support at the highest levels of government will lead to more competitive domestic and regional markets, so that Africa can take its rightful place in the world's economy.
Knayo Nwanze, Director General, WARDA - the Africa Rice Centre, Côte d'Ivoire

Date published: May 2004

 

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