Thursday, 11 July 2013

Food security in Africa: Issues and Challenges

Nestor Ngouambe
Nestor Ngouambe
In the run-up to the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), we asked a number of young people in Africa, about their take on the future of food security in Africa.
Here is one of the many responses we received, from Nestor Ngouambe, an agricultural engineer, specialized in rural economy and rural sociology. Nestor works at the Ministry of agriculture and rural development in Cameroon.
The definition of food security as provided by the World Food Summit (1996), agrees with FAO’s concept of food security, which is based on four main pillars:
  • Availability (which refers to the quantitative productivity of the food)
  • Accessibility (which refers to the acquisition of food)
  • Use (which refers to the use adequate whose balanced diet) and
  • Sustainability (which refers to the availability and permanent access to food).
The problem of food insecurity in Africa is a global concern. Moreover, it is estimated that over 200 million people are suffering from hunger in this part of the world. Food production is not correlated with the increasing demand due to rapid population growth (nearly one billion).
The low production can be explained by a lack of adequate agricultural policy in most cases. Factors such as the lack of basic services in rural areas, the poor performance (or scale down) of extension services and farming advisory functions, the low investment in agriculture and food, the removal of subsidies granted by the government, low exploiting the results of research, but to name a few, need to be considered in an adequate agricultural policy.
Given all this, we also note that family farming, or small holder farming, responsible for nearly 80% of total production, is increasingly marginalized. Farmers are also victims of dispossession of their main land supply through the phenomenon of land grabbing, which is rampant in Africa.
Cars in developed countries, fueling the ‘hungry’ industries increasingly use food (cereals, roots and tubers) for the production of agro-fuel, biofuel, ethanol etc. This creates competition between the food needed to address hunger, and industrial needs for fuel.
The end result — higher food prices for the poor and vulnerability to food insecurity. The vulnerability of African countries, however, is not inevitable given the agricultural potential and the availability of existing resources.
Among the major challenges for “Africa to Feeding Africa” through agricultural science and innovation include the financing of family farming, funding for agricultural research, the corporate control of food and nutrition, and lack of attention to the social determinants of nutrition.
Thus, to enhance nutrition, African states should first regulate the marketing of products. Good nutrition still requires a healthy and balanced diet; that is why we think that any company offering more expensive, yet unhealthy food is a company that needs to review its supply system healthy diet.
To regain control over food issues, African states should adopt the concept of food sovereignty, participate actively in discussions, review existing systems of agricultural subsidies, taking into account nutritional impacts, increased market support production; ensure that they have appropriate infrastructure to link local producers and urban consumers.
Support marked for smallholder agriculture (family farms) would have a significant impact on local food production and may influence the impact of prices on local markets.
Blogpost by Dominic Kornu and Nestor Ngouambe, two of the AASW6 social reporters.