Some 153 million people, comprising 26 per cent of the sub-Saharan Africa population above age 15, suffered severe food insecurity in 2014 and 2015, a new report on the state of food security in the region reveals.
The report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) was launched in Freetown on Thursday as part of a regional conference in the Sierra Leonean capital.
It shows that one in four individuals above 15 years was hungry and did not eat or went without eating for a whole day because there was not enough money or other resources for food within the period.
Shocks and stresses
The report, which is also known as Food Insecurity Experience Scales, was launched on the theme: Challenges of building resilience to shocks and stresses.
It notes that 7.5 per cent of the world’s population, aged 15 and above, representing 406 million, experienced food insecurity. Among that number, 153 million were Africans, representing the highest prevalence of severe food insecurity in the world.
The regional breakdown shows that Southern Africa records the lowest prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, with 20 per cent facing food insecurity, followed by Western Africa with 23 per cent, Eastern Africa with 28 per cent, and Middle (Central) Africa with 31 per cent.
Political instability, civil unrest and climate related disasters, as well as overexploitation of natural resources, were among factors fuelling food insecurity.
While on average the region achieved adequate food over the period, with its Dietary Energy Supply, several countries remained highly dependent on food imports to ensure adequate supplies, with some depending on the imports to fill up to a third of their cereal needs, the report adds.
Its authors called on African governments to invest and implement policies that promote increase in food production.
“Countries in the region need to clearly review and exert effort in order to improve the transaction of political commitment and declarations into effective programmes on the ground particularly the ambitious targets set in the Malabo Declaration for 2015 and the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030,” it notes.
FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa Bukar Tijani, presided over the launching of the report as part of a regional conference of parliamentarians from the Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) – European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
Range of issues
The 13th edition of the annual meeting, which concluded on Friday, brought together over 100 lawmakers from the EU and ACP member countries who discussed a range of issues.
Mr Tijani said the figures from the food security report underlined the importance of the challenges facing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 2.1 and the relevance of sustainable support to food security and nutrition policies and programmes in the region.
“This suggests that substantial demand for food exist for these countries and that there is a need to increase agricultural productivity, food production and value addition, among other things to satisfy it,” he said.
Sierra Leone’s Agriculture minister Monty Jones, is a renowned agricultural scientist for his role in the founding the famous Nerica (New Rice for Africa). He blames poor investment for the situation.
“Majority of African farmers cultivate less than 10 per cent of their land and this could be attributed to poor governance of land tenure and shocks and stress due to climate change,” he noted, adding that the solution is increased production and value addition to agricultural products.