Food security: A major challenge for today and tomorrow

Today, nearly 33% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, or about 200 million people, is undernourished, 60% of them live in countries in conflict. Food shortages are caused by conflicts, climate change, water scarcity, population growth and market volatility, among others. It is thus apodictic to act sustainably on the one hand to make food systems more efficient, inclusive and resilient, and on the other to put an end to hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

Increase productivity and improve food security

A response that involves increasing agricultural production, improving food quality and improving the competitiveness of the smallholder production. Agriculture is of vital importance to developing countries. The proper functioning of the agricultural sector is crucial for ensuring food security. Among other things, agricultural productivity needs to be improved in a sustainable manner in order to meet rising demand, and to build resilience to long-term crises, disasters and conflicts. It should be noted that agricultural products are a major source of national income. It is necessary to produce more with less, while preserving and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and family farmers, and ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable. In order to sustainably increase the income-generating activities of the poor, investment in social protection, the fight against undernourishment, there is needed investment in productive activities for the poor – investment in agriculture and rural economies.

The objective is to promote investments to increase production, agricultural productivity, and improved access to markets.

The concept of « food security » was defined at the 1996 World Food Summit: « Food security is ensured when all people at all times have economic, social and physical access to adequate, safe and secure food. Nutritious food that meets their nutritional needs and food preferences to enable them to lead an active and healthy life.  »

Food security as defined by the 1996 World Food Summit has four dimensions: (i) physical availability of food, (ii) economic and physical access to food, (iii) use of food, and (iv) stability of the other three dimensions over time.

Food Insecurity: A Driving Factor

There is a gap between the use of land and water resources in the agricultural sector, the increases in production required and the increase in food demand.

At least 40 percent of the world’s land mass is threatened by desertification, and the UN says 40 percent of the world’s conflicts are caused by struggles over natural resources.

According to UNHCR’s Geneva-based UNHCR, this food situation is the result of a multitude of factors such as lack of funds and conflicts that cause massive displacements of populations. To counter this, several countries are responding concomitantly to situations of food shortage arising, inter alia, from conflicts in their territories. This is the case of food fairs as an urgent response to the displacement of the populations of eastern Congo.

In 2016, the European Union has allocated 165 million to help those affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa, but « food insecurity » is a factor that moves to move or migrate to other realities « , said FAO Deputy Director General Daniel Gustafson. Income-generating activities should be developed in rural areas and the causes of migration should be tackled.

There are major upheavals that are affecting more and more communities. Incorporating sustainable practices into agriculture seems inevitable to feed a growing population without destroying the planet. Sustainability is an unavoidable issue for tomorrow’s agri-food industry.

About 20 million people could starve

« We must act quickly to save the lives of the famine-stricken people, » said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO. They are particularly suffering « in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, » he said. For the FAO’s Director-General, « If nothing is done quickly, about twenty million people could starve within six months.“

In such starvation situations, what counts first is the ability to provide immediate food assistance.

According to the latest report jointly produced by the World Food Program (WFP), FAO and the European Commission on Food Crises, in just twelve months’ time (2015-2016), people who suffer from hunger related to extreme weather events, living often in conflict zones, has increased from 80 to 108 million. This is mainly due to the drought in the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea), particularly in Ethiopia. It mainly affects farmers with small-scale activities on land at risk of desertification.

Urgent action is needed

According to the FAO report, The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges, although major advances have been made in reducing hunger suffering around the world over the last 30 years, “increasing food production and economic growth have a major impact on the natural environment. » The report reveals: « Almost half of the forests on this land have now disappeared. Groundwater sources are rapidly dwindling and biodiversity has been particularly affected. » Simply increasing production will not be enough. FAO calls for « major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and management of natural resources ». For we must respond to the many challenges facing us and fully exploit the potential of food and agriculture in order to ensure a bright future for everyone on this planet.

More agricultural investment, research and development in agriculture and food systems, but also « coherent and effective governance at the national and international levels » will be essential if the objective of eradicate hunger by 2030.

To preserve food security, each country should have the freedom to exercise its own food sovereignty, i.e. to define its agricultural policies and to ensure food self-sufficiency for the main agricultural commodities.

Food sovereignty is essentially political insofar as, according to its initiators, it is the right of a country / people to put in place the agricultural policies best suited to their populations. Food self-sufficiency is the ability to satisfy all the food needs of a population through domestic production alone.

It is necessary to put in place actions that can contribute to creating sustainable food and agricultural production. There should be a shift towards more sustainable food systems that use land, water and other inputs more efficiently.

In addition to increasing production and enhancing resilience, agroindustry chains should be created that better connect farmers in low- and middle-income countries to urban markets and develop measures. Measures to ensure that consumers have access to safe and nutritious food.

All should work to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce inequality and address the need for coherent and effective governance at the national and international levels.

« What Africa is doing for agriculture is not only important for it but will shape the future of food in the world, » said Akinwumi Adesina, a former Nigerian agriculture minister who became the Head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in September 2015.

Prospects

If efforts are not made to invest in and reorganize food systems, far too many people will suffer from hunger by the year 2030, the deadline set by the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate food insecurity and chronic malnutrition.

David Nabarro, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Sustainable Development Program to 2030: « Eliminate hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, transform agricultural policies in order to empower smallholders and conserve the planet is one of the most challenging problems of the new program, which concerns all SDGs « .

Present at the 28th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, believes that 65% ​​of Africans living in rural areas can get out of poverty if they invest in agriculture.

The 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights recognizes the « right to food » in the Constitution of more than 40 countries, and according to the FAO, it may be a judicial right in some 54 countries. New cross-border threats to agriculture and food systems should be prevented.

Patrice Kouakou

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