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Food-security in sub-Saharan Africa

Authors:
  • wasafiri consulting

Abstract

The right to food is one of those most consistently mentioned in international human rights documents, but it is the one most frequently violated in recent times. Targets set by the World Food Summit in 1996 for the reduction of hunger have largely failed, despite food production having grown faster than world population. Global, national and human security issues are increasingly converging, and in some regions overlapping. Some 840 million people worldwide are malnourished, the highest percentage of these being in Africa. The magnitude of the problem in Africa has now reached unprecedented crisis levels—some 38 million people face “an urgent and imminent threat to their peace, security and stability”.
Introduction
No human right has been so frequently and
spectacularly violated in recent times as the
right to food,1despite the fact that it is one
of the most consistently enshrined rights in
international human rights law, as
constantly reaffirmed by governments.
Concerns generated by the food crisis of the
mid-1970s led to world leaders accepting for
the first time the common responsibility of
the international community to abolish
hunger and malnutrition. Nevertheless,
between 1980 and 1998 per capita food
consumption in the 48 Least Developed
Countries declined, while for developing
countries as a whole it improved.
Worldwide the trends are alarming as
progress in reducing hunger in the
developing world has slowed to a crawl and
in most regions the number of
undernourished people is actually growing,
despite the fact that world food production
has grown faster than world population in
the past three decades. The latest estimates
indicate that some 840 million people were
undernourished in 1998–2000—11 million
in the industrialised countries, 30 million in
FEATURE
FOOD SECURITY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
JENNY CLOVER
The right to food is one of those most consistently mentioned in international human rights
documents, but it is the one most frequently violated in recent times. Targets set by the
World Food Summit in 1996 for the reduction of hunger have largely failed, despite food
production having grown faster than world population. Global, national and human security
issues are increasingly converging, and in some regions overlapping. Some 840 million
people worldwide are malnourished, the highest percentage of these being in Africa. The
magnitude of the problem in Africa has now reached unprecedented crisis levels—some 38
million people face “an urgent and imminent threat to their peace, security and stability”.
The reasons why action plans to address food security have continued to fall short can be
attributed to faulty analysis and faulty actions. What is needed is an understanding that goes
beyond conventional, orthodox wisdom to work more strategically in developing and
implementing effective, international, national and regional policies. Availability, access and
affordability are all elements of food security, complex issues that encompass a wide range
of interrelated economic, social and political factors, internal and external, which challenge
Africa’s ability to address food security. Ultimately hunger is a political creation which must
be ended by political means.
JENNY CLOVER is a researcher at the ISS.
countries in transition, and 799 million in
the developing world.2
The 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) set
a target of a reduction in the number of
hungry people by at least 20 million every
year between 2000 and 2015. While some
regions made impressive progress over the
two decades preceding 2000, demonstrating
that hunger is not an intractable problem,3
the latest figures on numbers of
undernourished worldwide reveal that since
the 1996 WFS, the average annual decrease
has been only 2.5 million, far below the level
required to reach the WFS goal of halving
the number of undernourished people by
2015. Progress will have to be accelerated to
24 million per year, almost ten times the
current pace, in order to reach that goal.4
The consequences of worldwide hunger
are only now being appreciated. At the 2002
WFS the chairperson stated: “Together with
terrorism, hunger is one of the greatest
problems the international community is
facing.”5
James Morris, executive director of
World Food Programme (WFP), in his
address to the UN Security Council in
December 2002 about Africa’s food crisis,
said:
Never before has WFP had to contend
with potential starvation of this
magnitude on the African continent
with the simultaneous outbreak of two
enormous and complex crises
exacerbated by HIV/AIDS and
economic policy failures. The reality is
that right now 38 million people in
Africa alone face an urgent and
imminent threat to their peace, security
and stability ... This is an
unprecedented crisis, which calls for an
unprecedented response.6
In its response the UN Security Council
acknowledged its concern that Africa’s food
crisis is a threat to peace and security.
Africa, which reversed from being a key
exporter of agricultural commodities into
being a net importer,7has the highest
percentage of undernourished people and
has shown the least progress on reducing the
prevalence of undernourishment in the last
30 years. Chronic food insecurity now
affects some 28% of the population—that is,
nearly 200 million people who are suffering
from malnutrition. Acute food insecurity in
2003 is affecting 38 million people in Africa
who are facing the outright risk of famine,
with 24,000 dying from hunger daily.
Famines are the most visible and extreme
manifestation of acute food insecurity. Of
the 39 countries worldwide that faced food
emergencies at the beginning of 2003, 25
are found in Africa.
The African continent is now the
continent receiving most food aid, with
some 30 million people requiring emergency
food aid in any one year. Sixty per cent of
the WFP’s work now takes place in Africa.
Aid officials have estimated that their budget
for Africa is $1.4 billion for feeding those
who will face starvation in the coming
months if they do not receive considerable
food assistance.8It is of great concern that
only $700 million had been raised by the
end of 2002.9The hunger crisis spans the
entire continent and has grown particularly
acute in the wake of two major,
simultaneous regional emergencies in the
past year. Southern Africa is facing the most
severe crisis in which, according to Food and
Agricultural Organisation (FAO) latest
figures, 16.7 million people are in need of
emergency assistance to survive until the
next harvest in April 2003. This has been a
crisis that has emerged in slow motion, the
extent of which has become apparent only
gradually although the first warning bells
were rung as early as mid-2001. During the
course of 2002, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia
and Lesotho each declared a national
disaster and appealed to the international
community for help. The most dangerous
situation is developing in Zimbabwe, a
country which until recently was a surplus
food producer. Developments in Swaziland
and Mozambique are also of great concern.
The continuing response to the food crisis
has not stabilised food security and with the
2002/03 crop already compromised and
food shortages likely to increase, the current
emergency conditions are worsening. This
crisis is not going to disappear even with
African Security Review 12(1) 20036
improved climatic conditions; these
countries will need ongoing assistance for
many years to come in agriculture and
health.
Serious food shortages are also looming in
several countries in the Horn of Africa
where at least 17.5 million are without
sufficient food. The needs are most urgent in
Eritrea and in Ethiopia where it is feared
that this crisis could be as bad as the 1984
famine. Families have started migrating from
the worst areas, while pastoralists are seeing
their livestock—their only source of wealth
—dying in droves. Millions more also face
starvation in the long-running disasters in
war-afflicted Sudan and Angola, as well as
the Great Lakes region and the Sahel of
Western Africa.10
An intractable problem?
If the continent’s resources far exceed its
needs, how can it be that there is so much
hunger? Why is it that countries that have
millions of hungry people are exporting
food to countries where people are already
well fed? Why is it that countries that are
poor, with so many hungry people, seem to
be able to grow food quite abundantly?
What will promise greater food security?
In the 1970s and 1980s solutions
proposed were purely technological,
stressing production rather than equitable
distribution of food. These failed, for the
problem is not technical. Population
pressures have been seen as a cause of world
hunger—they may be an aggravating factor,
but they are not a cause. Weather and
climate have also been a convenient
scapegoat, yet an abundance of food can and
does exist alongside famine even in natural
hazards.
In December 2002 an international
conference on food security attended by
eight regional groups in Africa was held in
Abuja, Nigeria to seek urgent measures to
check Africa’s severe food crisis. At the
Abuja meeting held under the auspices of
FAO, the African Development Bank (ADB)
and the New Partnership for Africa’s
Development (NEPAD), FAO director-
general Jacques Diouf stressed the severity
of the crisis in African agriculture and the
need for urgency in finding a way out of the
food plight. Action plans to address food
security have continued to fall well short.
Faulty analysis has led to faulty actions—
what is needed is an understanding that goes
beyond conventional, orthodox wisdom.
Definitions of food security
Interest in food security has waxed and
waned over time, particularly in relation to
changes in the extent and nature of food
problems worldwide. The 1975 UN
definition of food security reflected the
thinking of the day, which focused on
adequate production at the global and
national level. This was also a conventional
view of food as a primary need. Food
security is, however, a matter of both limited
food availability and restricted access to
food. Amartya Sen has been credited with
initiating the paradigm shift in the early
1980s that brought focus to the issue of
access and entitlement to food. Food
insecurity is no longer seen simply as a
failure of agriculture to produce sufficient
food at the national level, but instead as a
failure of livelihoods to guarantee access to
sufficient food at the household level.
Today, most common definitions begin with
individual entitlement, though recognising
the complex interlinkages between the
individual, the household, the community,
the nation and the international
community.11 In the 1996 Rome
Declaration on World Food Security, food
security is defined as:
Food that is available at all times, to
which all persons have means of access,
that is nutritionally adequate in terms
of quantity, quality and variety, and is
acceptable within the given culture.12
Availability, access and affordability are all
elements of food security, complex issues
that encompass a wide range of interrelated
economic, social and political factors—
internal and external—which challenge
Africa’s ability to address food security.
Analysts generally believe that Africa’s
Clover 7
current food emergencies are the result of a
combination of problems that range from
drought and adverse weather patterns and
civil conflict, to political-economic crises,
HIV/AIDS and poor policy decisions. No
single factor is uniquely responsible.
Southern Africa is no stranger to natural
hazards, but this time a very broad area has
been affected by drought and many
countries did not have strategic grain
reserves. There are also a far higher number
of dependents and more child-headed
households, because of HIV/AIDS. What is
undeniable is that “Africa’s persistent
vulnerability is arguably due as much to a
failure of understanding as to a failure of
interventions”.13
‘Natural hazard’ famines
Regular droughts are a fundamental part of
the climate in Southern Africa where there is
normally an exceptionally high variability in
rainfall and temperatures. One of the main
variables influencing the current crisis in
Africa is not just the fall in production
because of variable weather patterns—
primarily drought but also floods—but that
the magnitude and frequency of extreme
events is increasing. The past two years have
brought the highest number of weather-
related disasters over the decade, and
according to the UN World Meteorological
Organisation, nine of the 10 hottest years
since 1860 have occurred since 1990.14 An
FAO study has predicted that climate change
will cause severe drought in Africa and that
by 2050 an additional 30 million Africans
could be affected by famine.15
Environmental factors impact heavily on
agriculture, and agriculture in turn has a
substantial impact on the environment.
There are increasing reports of land
degradation, deforestation, waterlogging
and salinisation contributing to the declining
ability of Africa to feed itself. Lesotho is a
case in point. Agriculture in this small
country faces a catastrophic future, with
average farm yields having declined by more
than two-thirds since the 1970s. Soil erosion
is spreading fast, and soil fertility is
deteriorating even further. During the
course of the last few months of 2002, the
start of summer, Lesotho experienced
unseasonal weather in the form of frost,
cyclones and hail.
While the issue of food security is directly
linked to climate change and variability,
weather is not the single determinant of
yield, nor is the physical environment the
only decisive factor in shaping food security.
Conflicts
Drought and conflict often interact so
closely that they are inextricable as causal
mechanisms. There are a growing number of
new and worsening conflicts that are
increasingly violent and long lasting.
Virtually every country that has suffered
famine in the past 20 years has suffered a
war at the same time—this is particularly
true of famines in the 1990s. While Africa
has experienced many droughts, they were
generally managed with reasonable
efficiency. It has been the combination of
war and drought that has caused large-scale
suffering and death. Of the 25 countries in
Africa facing food emergencies in 2003, ten
are currently experiencing civil strife, and
four are emerging from conflicts.16
War and political upheaval are major
contributing factors to famine, the impact
being felt at household and national level. At
best agricultural production is interrupted,
but in protracted conflicts such as Angola,
production is devastated. Other direct
economic outcomes include price changes
for basic commodities, closure of markets,
destitution and displacement, disruption of
trade and aid flows. Evidence of
environmental degradation and competition
for natural resources can be found in many
of the internal and even transboundary
conflicts that contribute to many complex
emergencies. Conflicts are also more likely
to deflect scarce resources into military
budgets (to feed armies and purchase
weapons) and away from critical
development needs resulting in collapsed
infrastructure. In terms of the proportion of
undernourished people, the Democratic
African Security Review 12(1) 20038
Republic of Congo is one of the worst
performers, the number of undernourished
people having tripled in recent years.
Famine may not only be a by-product of
war, it may also be an instrument of war.
There are many cases in Africa of political
interference—certain groups may be more
vulnerable because of deliberate indifference
or even victimisation by the government,
coupled with the lack of political power of
these groups. Evidence abounds in both
Angola and Sudan of wide-scale starvation
because of lack of access by aid organisations
to those in need, and also of deliberate
victimisation on the part of the government.
In Angola civilian populations, which were
the target of both parties to the conflict,
were under constant patterns of attack and
reprisal for the three years prior to the
ending of the war, displaced by force or
threat of force, and their villages and homes
often burned down as well as systematically
plundered, preventing them from growing
or harvesting crops and depriving people of
basic resources. And as Stephen Devereux
appositely states:
Most food crises in the Horn of Africa
during the 1980s and 1990s were
characterised by government hostility
to the afflicted population, or by bad
relationships between the national
government and the international
community.17
There are also many factors that exacerbate
emergencies, undermining the production of
food and economic access to it.
Structural poverty
Widespread and abject poverty and hunger
are getting worse in Africa, but improving
almost everywhere else. Nearly half the
population of sub-Saharan Africa lives below
the international poverty line, a higher
percentage than in any other region. Sub-
Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of
undernourishment18 and has shown little
progress in reducing this in the last 30 years.
Undernourishment is a central manifestation
of poverty; and as poverty worsens, food
becomes more important than ever. It
deepens other aspects of poverty by
reducing the capacity for work and
resistance to disease, and by affecting
children’s mental development and
educational achievements.
Food insecurity and hunger are closely
related to poverty and an inability to
purchase food. Tackling hunger cannot be
solved by simply producing more food—
famines have occurred even with plenty of
food. Most people buy food rather than
produce it; in fact very few people,
including small farmers, are entirely self-
sufficient in production. What we are
witnessing in Southern Africa, in particular,
is that as harvests have failed, so people have
resorted to selling off livestock and assets to
finance food purchases, while
simultaneously food prices have risen
sharply and livestock prices have fallen.
In asking who are the food insecure,
where are they located and why are they
food insecure, we see that when disasters
strike, the poor and socially disadvantaged
suffer the most and are the least equipped to
cope with the impact. Most of the
populations living in these areas are poor
and lack sufficient housing, infrastructure
and services that can mitigate the impact of
a disaster. They may also live in flood-prone
or geologically unstable areas, or farm
marginal lands. Demographic changes,
environmental degradation, changes of
river, dam and land management and other
factors increase vulnerability. Susceptibility
to natural hazards aggravate the adverse
effects of these natural events, particularly in
the least developed and conflict-ridden
states.
Reduced fresh water availability, linked
with potential reductions in rainfall, is
increasing the risk of water contamination.
It is essential to note the connection between
undernutrition, lack of potable water and
diarrhoea, which is one of the world’s five
biggest killers.
Security of land tenure is not only a
determinant of food production—land is an
essential resource for many people if they
are to escape poverty. The distribution of
land in eastern and southern Africa is so
Clover 9
unequal that land reform and land
redistribution is essential if there is to be a
major reduction in poverty. Land reform
programmes have enormous potential to
increase agricultural production—but it is
essential that they be accompanied by
comprehensive programmes of agrarian
reform including access to credit, savings
and markets in rural areas if they are to
fundamentally redress the inefficiencies of
inequality.
HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS, the unmitigated disaster, is not
simply a health issue, but also of vital
importance across a spectrum of issues
including development, security, food
production and life expectancy. The rapid
spread of the epidemic is both a reflection of
poverty, which does not cause it but
certainly aggravates it, and it is in turn
driving a ruthless cycle of impoverishment,
resulting in a rapid increase in the number of
poor and destitute families, reversing
decades of development.
The current food crisis is inextricably
linked to the widespread HIV pandemic that
has deepened the crisis. Sub-Saharan Africa
is the hardest hit region, with nine per cent
of the population infected. In Southern
Africa, which is at the epicentre of the
pandemic, infection levels average around
25% of the population, 58% of the affected
being women. Where women participate in
agricultural production, food security at the
household and community level is being
seriously threatened. All dimensions of food
security—availability, stability, access and
use of food—are affected where the
prevalence of HIV/AIDS is high. Farming
skills are being lost, agricultural
development efforts are failing, rural
livelihoods are disintegrating, productive
capacity to work the land is declining and
household earnings are shrinking. In the ten
most affected African countries, labour force
decreases ranging from 10–26% are
anticipated. The UN estimated that 9.6% of
Zimbabwe’s agricultural labour force was
lost in 2000, Malawi losing 5.8%.19 What
we are seeing in Southern Africa is that the
food shortages are now exacerbating the
downward spiral of health, both of those
suffering from HIV/AIDS and children
suffering malnourishment. Traditional safety
nets are breaking down. The effects on
households are significant and the African
extended family is not able to cope with this
double burden of care.
In essence we see that the relationship of
HIV/AIDS to food security is bi-directional:
vulnerability and food insecurity feed into
the very risk behaviour that drives the
HIV/AIDS pandemic; and the impact of
HIV/AIDS exacerbates food insecurity,
which again feeds into risk.
Economic crisis
All of the above has to be seen in the context
of the structural distortions and imbalances
in the region’s economy—some 60–70% of
the labour force is in agriculture, which
contributes less than 20% to gross domestic
product (GDP), while 30% of the labour
force is in industry and services which
contribute 90% to GDP. This vulnerability
to sudden economic downturns in countries
that already lack the capacity and
infrastructure to cope with them can
heighten the level of the disaster.
A number of key countries in the region
are plagued by poor macro-economic
performance. Coupled with economic
integration within the region it has meant
that the downward trend has had ripple
effects throughout.
Ethiopia’s response is hampered by global
economics—the sharp fall in coffee prices
has cut incomes for many farmers, and the
country is still labouring under a heavy debt
burden. Donors have been uneasy about
donating millions to a government that
seemed to prioritise spending on war rather
than on health and education.
The interplay between governance and
economic development performance has
undermined efforts to address issues. Famine
is not just an ‘economic disaster’. While the
lack of purchasing power at the individual
and household level can be attributed to
African Security Review 12(1) 200310
poverty, it is frequently also the result of
political disasters, not just conflicts, but
failure in the political accountability of
governments, and even political interference,
as has been the case recently in Zimbabwe.
Politics
Politics hold centre stage in both current
regional dramas in sub-Saharan Africa. In
Zimbabwe, failure of governance—both
through lack of accountability and an
opposition to democratisation—and in
particular, the way in which the land reform
programme has been instrumentalised and
implemented, has resulted in a severe
undermining of the previously robust
agricultural economy. Despite the fact that
the land reform programme offers both
promise (in the longer term) and threat,
there is currently concern over the under-
utilisation of newly settled land and the
possibility of lower crop yields. At the end of
2002 an estimated 90% of the 300,000
Zimbabweans who were given land by the
government under the current land reform
programme still lacked farm inputs and
some 94% did not have seeds for the
upcoming season. The situation is further
aggravated by the uncertainty of tenure as it
appears that the government still owns the
land, making it difficult for farmers to access
credit at the banks. By the end of 2002,
Zimbabwe’s average farming output was
down by about 75% from the previous year.
Financial mismanagement in Malawi’s sale
of the country’s strategic grain reserve has
also played a crucial role in contributing to
the food crisis there.
Elsewhere, in Eritrea, for example, parts
remain inaccessible due to landmines, and
since the war with Ethiopia ended, the
government has become increasingly
repressive. Despite the ending of the civil
war in Angola there are several areas in
which people cannot be accessed because of
landmines and collapsed infrastructure.
Capacity to respond
Disasters are not merely natural phenomena
—they are an interplay of a combination of
several factors—of hazards and communities
at risk. Southern Africa is no stranger to
droughts, and people have coped with them
before. The question increasingly being
asked is: Why not now? People facing a food
shortage make strategic decisions about how
to meet their needs: options range from
informal safety nets in which people draw
on their social networks, to eating less and
cheaper meals and even scrounging for fruit
and seeds, or more desperate measures
shifting in intensity from the selling off of
assets to migrating off the land. What we are
witnessing in Southern Africa at household
level is a slow erosion of people’s coping
mechanisms, which is exposing a more deep-
seated and complex problem of
vulnerability.
Furthermore, the evidence suggests that
many countries and regions that are
vulnerable to natural hazards lack the
capacity or are poorly prepared to respond.
The capacity to organise at country level a
set of people who can identify the problem,
analyse the information that is coming from
the ground and design solutions in order to
prevent famine, is either not there or is not
being utilised. The policies, institutions and
capacities have to be in place to respond and
mitigate. There are, nevertheless, many cases
of successful famine prevention, including
Kenya and Botswana in the mid-1980s and
Zimbabwe and South Africa in the early
1990s. However, what is clear is that
recovery and rehabilitation efforts that
address the root causes of chronic food
insecurity and vulnerability to drought have
been extremely limited.
The wider context
There is a perception that Africa has
underperformed in macro-economic terms,
but in fact according to World Bank
statistics20 Africa has not lagged behind the
world as a whole: its growth rate in the
period 1990–96 was 2.1% as against Latin
America’s 2.5%, East Asia’s 4.0%, South
Asia’s 3.0%, and 0.8% for high income
economies.21 Food production has in fact
Clover 11
increased by over a quarter in the last two
decades, but not fast enough in terms of per
capita production. Sub-Saharan Africa is the
only region where the annual growth of
GDP per capita has been negative, at –1.0%
between 1975 and 1999, compared with
6.0% for East Asia and the Pacific and 2.3%
for South Asia.
Improving the poor performance of
Africa’s stagnating agricultural sector is a
key to solving the problems of hunger and
poverty since this sector is at the heart of
food security. Relative to the rest of the
world, agriculture is especially important in
Africa—with small-holder agriculture being
the predominant source of livelihoods in
Africa. Agriculture employs a greater share
of the labour force than in any other region
(apart from East Asia and the Pacific). Over
96% of farmers operate on a small-scale,
farming less than five hectares. The sector,
however, is characterised by weak linkages
to markets and little or no access to external
inputs. Many small-scale farmers farm
degraded land; most are far from services
and roads and consequently from extension
programmes.
Public investment in African agriculture
has been falling for many years. Aid to
agriculture and rural development in the late
1970s accounted for more than a third of
total aid. In the late 1980s, that figure
dropped to 24%. It is now closer to 10%.22
World Bank lending has fallen from around
31% of its total lending in 1979–81 to less
than 10% in 1999–2000.23 Poverty
strategies of developing countries make little
mention of agricultural and rural
development as sources of poverty
reduction. Government budgets for
agriculture have declined.
While the Green Revolution succeeded in
improving yields, it led to serious
environmental problems. Ignoring
traditional crops (which also led to a
movement away from the more appropriate,
drought-resistant indigenous crops such as
millet and sorghum to a maize
monoculture), and the staples of poor
farmers, resulted in the growing
concentration of ownership of land and
resources in the hands of the rich and a focus
on cash crops. This has exposed farmers
because of the decline in worldwide prices
for traditional export commodities.
And yet, small-holder agriculture has
proved to be at least as efficient as large
farms when farmers received similar support
services in inputs like seeds, fertiliser and
credit. A recent FAO study has revealed that
small farms tend to be more productive and
offer more employment to surrounding
populations than large estates; the
International Food Policy Research Institute
(IFPRI) in a 2001 report estimated that for
each one per cent rise in agricultural
productivity, poverty would be reduced by
0.6%.24 The FAO is now calling for
additional public investment by developed
and developing countries into on-farm
improvements such as irrigation, better
seeds, conservation of the natural-resource
base for food production, improvement in
research and extension, upgrading of rural
infrastructure, improved market access and
special provision for people in particular
need.
These are sentiments that are increasingly
being echoed the world over. The World
Bank’s new rural development strategy calls
for an increase in the percentage of
resources devoted to rural development.
Going beyond the food crisis, NEPAD
recently announced that it has identified
agriculture as a priority for sub-regional and
regional approaches to development and as
an engine of growth in the improvement of
people’s livelihoods in the rural areas. The
NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture
Development Programme (CAADP), which
anticipates investment of $240 billion by
2015, focuses on three priority areas where
increased investments would help improve
Africa’s agriculture, food security and trade
balance, these are:
extending the area under sustainable land
management and reliable water control
systems;
improving rural infrastructure and trade-
related capacities for market access; and
increasing food supply and reducing
hunger.
African Security Review 12(1) 200312
Globalisation and the role of the
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
There are close links between hunger and
food security on the one hand, and a large
number of issues of global relevance on the
other. The adverse impact of structural
adjustment and liberalisation policies on
food security and agriculture, along with
persisting trade barriers, the overall
downward trend of official development
assistance (ODA), agricultural subsidies in
the North, and debt burdens in Africa are
just some of the issues highlighting the need
for international co-operation as an
instrument for addressing food insecurity.
The advent of structural adjustment
programmes (SAPs) in the early 1980s,
which were presented as the panacea for all
economic ills, have contributed to a marked
increase in rural poverty, and an increase in
vulnerability to external shocks.
Between 1960 and 1980, before SAPs,
income per head in the region grew by
a third. Between 1980 and 1997 it fell
by a quarter. Part of the problem was
that higher income from export crops
did not materialise. In mid-2001 the
price of every major traded agricultural
commodity, with the exception of
sugar, was substantially lower, by way
of example, than in mid-1998.25
Market reforms put forward by the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) as the ideologically correct
development path rejected notions of
government intervention. As a result, much
of the region was compelled to reduce its
interventions in the economy, a move that
included ceasing the subsidisation of
agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and
privatising the commodity boards that fixed
producer prices and collected farmers’
produce. Ironically these handicaps have
been further compounded by policies in the
North—at the same time that African
farmers have been told they can no longer
have free seeds or fertilisers, the EU and the
US have maintained and actually sharply
increased subsidies and support for
agriculture. US farmers are receiving an
average $20,000 a year in subsidies—soon
to be increased by 70%—and EU farmers
receive $16,000.26 A downstream effect is
that of subsidised surpluses which undercut
the prices of African foods in their own
markets. It is something of an anomaly that
rich countries heavily subsidise a declining
agricultural sector, which, at maturity,
contributes less than five per cent to GDP.27
Since the mid-1990s the developed
countries have made promises to phase out
protectionist policies and to scale down
agricultural subsidies. Despite these, tariff
barriers in rich countries are higher for poor
countries than for industrialised countries
and Northern governments have increased
agricultural subsidies; countries representing
four-fifths of the world’s population are
now left with less than one-fifth of world
exports.28
The practice and rules of international
trade play a key role in achieving world food
security and fostering agriculture. Free trade
is not good for everyone and African
countries face huge barriers in establishing
an agro-export economy to trade their way
out of poverty because of tariff barriers and
produce dumping by European and US
producers. Trade rounds ostensibly benefit
the whole world by enhancing
competitiveness, expanding the marketplace
to increase trade volume and enhancing the
value of the goods we trade. These
assumptions are based on fundamentally
flawed principles. Trade has the potential to
contribute to food security, but in practice
two sets of rules have been enforced: one for
those allowed to and responsible for
distorting the market through tariff and
non-tariff barriers, and those—the
developing countries—who were not and
are now legally prohibited from doing so. It
was reported at the June 2002 WFS that
“OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development) countries
provide a billion dollars a day in support to
their own agriculture sector, six times more
than all development assistance” and also
that the annual loss of income to developing
countries from lack of market access exceeds
$10 billion.29 In fact the level of ODA,
Clover 13
which was partly intended to compensate
for the inequities of the global system, has
been declining even in absolute terms to less
than 0.2% of gross national product, instead
of the moving towards the internationally
accepted target of 0.7% of donor countries.
At the same time that the developed
countries are providing their agricultural
sectors with subsidies totalling $350 billion a
year, agriculture’s share of ODA has
declined to the point where it is now a sixth
of the total ODA provided to developing
countries.30
Conclusion
It is no longer tenable for the world to throw
money at the problem of widespread
hunger. Planned humanitarian support is not
an end in itself. A much more strategic
approach is necessary in developing and
implementing effective international,
national and regional policies with regard to
food security. In tackling the causes, the
centrality of growing structural deficiencies
must result in increased recognition of the
long-term nature of revising approaches to
food security. Responses must combine food
assistance and new approaches to farming,
alongside the prevention and treatment of
HIV/AIDS. The WTO urgently needs to be
restructured to include the active
participation of the poorer countries, and it
must be restructured to provide more
assistance. Developing countries should
benefit more from the removal of trade
barriers for products in which they have a
comparative advantage, from reduced tariffs
for processed agricultural commodities, and
from deeper preferential access to markets
for the least developed countries.
Greater recognition must be given to
agriculture as a priority sector in Africa,
including the allocation of increased funding
in national budgets as recommended by the
African ministers of agriculture.31
Competent and enduring responses must
include issues such as community access to
land and land tenure, preservation of
agricultural diversity, access to credit and
agricultural inputs, seed sourcing and access
(commercially or locally), and ecologically
based land management. Among the lessons
being learnt from the current food crisis in
Southern Africa is the need for a common
approach to early warning and analysis
systems that monitor both HIV infection
rates and famine indicators. Also required
are new agricultural techniques, appropriate
to a depleted workforce.
The balancing of the immediate food aid
issues with long-term and strategic
considerations requires a multifaceted
approach covering political, economic,
social and environmental factors.
Nevertheless, what is paramount is the
political will to tackle the problem. As James
Morris, executive director of the World
Food Programme, said in his address to the
UN Security Council:
In the end, hunger is a political
creation and we must use political
means to end it.
For the outcome to be beneficial to Africa
requires that her leaders, thinkers and
communities be foremost in the decisions
that are taken. For coherent and sustainable
positions to be adopted requires regional
and shared decision making.
What is needed urgently now is not
charity alone, but justice if a comprehensive
security is to be achieved, recognising that
the protection of individual citizens (human
security) matters at least as much as the
more traditional defence role of protecting
the state (national security). Global, national
and human security issues are not merely
converging, they are overlapping. In the
words of Jacques Diouf:
It is in the interest of all countries to
establish a more equitable world. The
cost of inaction is prohibitive. The cost
of progress is both calculable and
affordable.32
Notes
1 FAO, Extracts from international and regional
instruments and declarations, and other
authoritative texts addressing the right to food,
Rome, 1999. International code of conduct on
the human right to adequate food.
African Security Review 12(1) 200314
2 FAO, The state of food insecurity in the world,
2002, p 1 <www.fao.org>
3 There has been a decrease in the number of
undernourished people in developing countries
such as China, Peru, Indonesia, Nigeria,
Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, Pakistan and
Sudan. T K Rajalakshmi, Hunger amidst plenty,
Frontline (19)1, 5-18 January, 2002.
4 FAO, The state of food insecurity in the world,
p 1.
5World Food Summit news, Five years later, 10-
13 June 2002.
6 World Food Programme, 3 December 2002,
<www.reliefweb.int> p 2.
7 The FAO has stated that Africa’s annual food
imports are the equivalent in hard currency of
$19 billion, while its agricultural exports are
valued at $14 billion. SAPA, 9 December 2002,
reporting on the Africa Food Security
Conference in Nigeria.
8 J Morris, executive director of the World Food
Programme, briefing the UN Security Council in
December 2002.
9 Ibid.
10 For a complete list see FAO/GIEWS Africa
Report, 3, December 2002 <www.fao.org/
giews/>
11 S Maxwell, The evolution of thinking about
food security, in S Devereux and S Maxwell
(eds.) Food security in sub-Saharan Africa, 2000,
p 17.
12 J Madeley, Food for all: The need for a new
agriculture, 2002, p 34.
13 Devereux and Maxwell, op cit, p 2.
14 M Grunwald, The Washington Post, 7 January
2003.
15 Ibid.
16 Currently experiencing civil strife: Burundi,
Central African Republic, Democratic Republic
of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone,
Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Emerging from
conflict: Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Guinea.
17 S Devereux, Famine in Africa, Issues in food
security, in Devereux and Maxwell (eds.) op cit,
p 143.
18 Undernourishment is one of the seven key
indicators for global monitoring of food security
as determined by the Committee on World Food
Security.
19 Financial Times, 6 November 2002.
20 S Maxwell, Agricultural issues in food security,
in Devereux and Maxwell (eds.), op cit, p 33.
21 Ibid.
22 M Lipton, What productive resources do the
poor really need to escape poverty? Conference
on sustainable food security for all by 2020,
September 2001, p 66.
23 UN OCHA Southern Africa: Year-ender 2002 –
New thinking needed on food security, 20
January 2003.
24 OCHA 2002 annual report.
25 J Madeley, op cit, p 117.
26 Oxfam Briefing Paper No. 23, Crisis in southern
Africa, 2002.
27 A McCalla, The long arm of industrialised
countries: How their agricultural policies affect
food security, Conference on sustainable food
security for all by 2020, September 2001.
28 Oxfam International Briefing Paper No. 9, Eight
broken promises: Why the WTO isn’t working for
the world’s poor.
29 FAO Summit news, World Food Summit: Five
years later reaffirms pledge to reduce hunger
<www.fao.org>
30 S Aziz, How committed are we to ending
hunger? Keynote speaker at Conference on
sustainable food security for all by 2020,
September 2001, p 17.
31 African countries pledge to give agriculture
priority, reported in Agence France-Presse 13,
December 2002.
32 J Diouf, FAO director general, World Food Day
in 2002 edition of The state of food insecurity in
the world, op cit.
Clover 15
... Over the years, Africa has lost her position of being an exporter of food into being a net importer with the highest malnourished people in the world. The high level of importation of food has also contributed to chronic food insecurity that affects almost 28% of the continent population, which is nearly 200 million people; more so, this has also increased the number of people dying from hunger (Clover, 2003). ...
... Food availability, access, and utilization are very crucial pillars of food security. The problem of food insecurity is a multifaceted and interrelated of the three pillars of food security which in most cases can be traced to have economic, social, and political dimensions to food security (Clover, 2003). Connolly-Boutin & Smith (2015) succinctly explain food availability, access and utilization as "Food availability means the cultivation and channel of distributions, sales and final consumption of food. ...
... In a study carried out by FAO, the organization opined that severe drought caused by the climatic change may affect over 30 million Africans by the end of 2050 (Clover, 2003). Apart from the high susceptibility of Sub-Saharan Africa to climate change, agriculture in the region also face numerous challenges of biophysical, political, socioeconomic, and armed conflict which all lower the region's adaptation capability (IPCC 2007). ...
... In the meantime, since 1970, global food consumption and production have both increased by roughly 2.2% annually, although in developing nations, consumption has increased by about 3.7% and output by about 3.5%. Furthermore, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the only region in the world where both per-capita food supply and land productivity are declining [2]- [4].For more than half of the world's population, rice is the primary staple food [5], and Nigeria is one of the largest rice markets in Africa, with an estimated 6.4 million tons of rice consumed domestically each year [6]. In addition, one third of Nigeria's rice demand is currently fulfilled by importation due to poor technology adoption rates, low yields, and low productivity. ...
... A multi-stage sampling technique was used for sample selection. Firstly, based on proximity to the DKIS, one senatorial district was purposively selected from each State, and two (2) LGAs were further purposively selected from each of the two senatorial districts. From each of the LGA selected, one ward was also purposively selected based on their proximity to the study area. ...
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... However, the ability of agriculture to ensure food security is not independent of political stability and the sociopolitical environment where agricultural activities take place. This is because the important elements of agriculture, such as labour, large farm size, storage facilities and markets are subject to political stability (Amaza et al., 2006;Clover, 2003;Otsuka, 2013). The Nigeria's security challenges have been sustained for a while (See Nwozor et al., 2019). ...
... Since not all parts of the country are self-sufficient in the production of all food types due to differences in climatic conditions and soil type, this causes the poor distribution of agricultural products and shortage of some items in some parts of the country (Hlophe- Ginindza & Mpandeli, 2020;Liefert & Liefert, 2015). The major consequence will be food price hike which is among the symptoms of food crises (Clover, 2003;Sasson, 2012). Food production shocks are also inevitable where food supply is being used as a weapon of war, farms and farmers become the targets of terrorists (Applebaum, 2004). ...
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The performance of agricultural sector is not independent of political stability and the socio-political environment where agricultural activities take place. This study assesses the Nigeria's security score cards and how they influence agriculture because of its important role in economic growth and in ensuring food security. The study covers 1984 to 2019, it employs an autoregressive distributed lag (ARDL) model. A long relationship is established between agriculture and conflicts in Nigeria. Results prove that internal conflict has no significant influence on agricultural production in Nigeria. However, while rise in ethnic tensions will cause reduction in long-run food production, rise in religious tensions causes short-run loss of food production. Therefore, these findings suggest that a sustained national security challenge poses a great threat to agriculture. Self-sufficiency of each geopolitical zone in agriculture is therefore recommended. Most importantly, it is recommended that farmers' environment be fully protected and there should be communal mitigation against insecurity.
... Access to food is critical to human survival, and in this case, food security only exists when all people have both economic and physical access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food that does not only meet one's dietary needs but also offer options to meet their food preference (Ministry of Food and Agriculture 2007;Quaye 2008). In view of the aforementioned, poor food security is not only manifested in the failure of a country's agricultural sector to produce sufficient food but also witnessed in terms of an individual's failure to ensure access to sufficient food at the household level (Clover 2010). Indeed, food security has been cemented in the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. ...
... Access to food is critical to human survival, and in this case, food security only exists when all people have both economic and physical access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food that does not only meet one's dietary needs but also offer options to meet their food preference (Ministry of Food and Agriculture 2007;Quaye 2008). In view of the aforementioned, poor food security is not only manifested in the failure of a country's agricultural sector to produce sufficient food but also witnessed in terms of an individual's failure to ensure access to sufficient food at the household level (Clover 2010). Indeed, food security has been cemented in the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. ...
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... Access to food is critical to human survival, and in this case, food security only exists when all people have both economic and physical access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food that does not only meet one's dietary needs but also offer options to meet their food preference (Ministry of Food and Agriculture 2007;Quaye 2008). In view of the aforementioned, poor food security is not only manifested in the failure of a country's agricultural sector to produce sufficient food but also witnessed in terms of an individual's failure to ensure access to sufficient food at the household level (Clover 2010). Indeed, food security has been cemented in the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which aims at ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. ...
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Food for all: The need for a new agriculture
  • J Madeley
J Madeley, Food for all: The need for a new agriculture, 2002, p 34.
What productive resources do the poor really need to escape poverty? Conference on sustainable food security for all by 2020
  • M Lipton
M Lipton, What productive resources do the poor really need to escape poverty? Conference on sustainable food security for all by 2020, September 2001, p 66.
FAO director general, World Food Day in 2002 edition of The state of food insecurity in the world
  • J Diouf
J Diouf, FAO director general, World Food Day in 2002 edition of The state of food insecurity in the world, op cit.
The long arm of industrialised countries: How their agricultural policies affect food security
  • A Mccalla
A McCalla, The long arm of industrialised countries: How their agricultural policies affect food security, Conference on sustainable food security for all by 2020, September 2001.
executive director of the World Food Programme, briefing the UN Security Council in December
  • J Morris
J Morris, executive director of the World Food Programme, briefing the UN Security Council in December 2002.
Famine in Africa, Issues in food security
  • S Devereux
S Devereux, Famine in Africa, Issues in food security, in Devereux and Maxwell (eds.) op cit, p 143.
World Food Summit: Five years later reaffirms pledge to reduce hunger
  • Fao
  • Summit
How committed are we to ending hunger? Keynote speaker at Conference on sustainable food security for all by 2020
  • S Aziz
S Aziz, How committed are we to ending hunger? Keynote speaker at Conference on sustainable food security for all by 2020, September 2001, p 17.