Is there food on the table for all one billion of us?

Kudakwashe Manjonjo
Harare, Zimbabwe

These are the facts: Every fourth person in Africa that you meet in the road is likely to be under-nourished, every third child is stunted, hunger levels in Africa rise by 2% per annum and between 1990 and 2012 and the number of hungry Africans has increased from 175 million to 239 million.

The African Union Summit held last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ran with the theme “Agriculture and Food Security.” With the above facts hanging over their heads, the seemingly perennial question arose, are we as Africans able to feed ourselves, our families, nations and as it seems likelier in the future, the world?

The answer currently is no. 

But we can and we do seem to be on the right direction. 11 years ago, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) was signed which is the framework used to revitalize agriculture, food security and nutrition and also solicits nations to pledge 10% of their national budgets to the agriculture sector.

At the African summit, the African Union Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma stated that the causes to why our agriculture is behind is because we need better improved human capital for agriculture research and infrastructure and as usual, lack of adequate funding.

But think about this for a moment. According to a World Bank report titled, ‘Africa can help feed Africa’, it is believed that we can feed ourselves. Only 5% of African food exports goes to other African countries. In other words, we export 95% of our food to other continents when our next door neighbour is dying from starvation! And the problem isn’t only in about Africans nations failing to pay each other, but issues such as import/export bans, price controls and long bureaucracy.

The point made by the World Bank is particularly exciting for one main reason. Greater African integration is a sustainable implementable long-term solution to our growing food crisis which is going to double up by 2050 when there are two billion of us. So a big step to making sure that we all eat is simply greater political commitment to stronger regional integration, something the World Bank commented is lacking in Africa.

Going back to the landmark CAADP, reports show that from one country in 2009, 40 countries, one of the latest being Zimbabwe have signed onto implementing CAADP and this will lead to better strategic growth in the sector.

About 8 countries according to NEPAD dedicated 10% or more of their budgets to farming, case in point being Malawi which unsurprisingly has had better harvests over the last couple of years.

Africa’s agriculture certainly has a myriad of difficulties to conquer such as poor property rights, lack of technical knowledge and the rest mentioned above but the fundamental and exciting things are that the solutions are in our hands. No one can assist us in integrating or in dedicating 10% of our budgets to feeding ourselves. With 70% of the African population rural and farmers, poverty reduction is also one great complementary effects to focusing our efforts in feeding ourselves. 

The solutions to feeding ourselves are greater integration among African states, less bureaucracy and synchronisation of agricultural policies. 

The question remaining, what are you doing to get Africa going?

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