Sub-Saharan Africa cannot sustain its present economic resurgence unless it eliminates the hunger that affects nearly a quarter of its people, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report
“Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition,” said UNDP administrator, Helen Clark. “Inclusive growth and people-centred approaches to food security are needed.”
The Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future, argues that action focused on agriculture alone will not end food insecurity either, and calls for new approaches covering multiple sectors; from rural infrastructure to health services, to new forms of social protection and empowering local communities.
Ensuring that the poor and vulnerable have a greater voice through strengthened local government and civil society groups is also needed to ensure food security for all, according to the report.
It goes on to say that the quickening pace of change and new economic vitality on the continent make this an opportune time for action.
“It is a harsh paradox that in a world of food surpluses, hunger and malnutrition remain pervasive on a continent with ample agricultural endowments,” said Tegegnework Gettu, director of UNDP’s Africa Bureau.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s high rates of economic growth in recent years – some of the fastest in the world – and improvements in life expectancy and schooling have not led to commensurate improvements in food security.
With more than one in four of its 856 million people undernourished, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the world’s most food-insecure region.
At the moment, more than 15 million people are at risk in the Sahel alone – across the semi-arid belt from Senegal to Chad; and an equal number in the Horn of Africa remain vulnerable after last year’s food crisis in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.
“Building a food-secure future for all Africans will only be achieved if efforts span the entire development agenda,” said Clark.
While acknowledging that there are no quick fixes, the report argues that food security can be achieved through immediate action in critical areas such as:
- Increasing agricultural productivity
- Ending decades of bias against women in agriculture
- Encouraging the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Africa’s growing youth population
- Creating policies promoting agricultural productivity to stimulate economic growth
“Africa has the knowledge, the technology, and the means to end hunger and food insecurity,” said Gettu.