Africa is the second-most populous continent in the world, after Asia.
Statista predicts that its population is set to reach 2.5 billion by 2050 whereas the UN forecasts a global population of nearly 10 billion by the same year. Climate change and geopolitics have proven to have a great influence on Africa’s food security, contributing to the ongoing hunger crisis the continent is facing. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Fao) and the African Union estimates that 346 million people in Africa are victims of this food crisis. So, what exactly is the food crisis?
According to Fao, food security is a situation “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Thus, the opposite of this term is food insecurity which often translates into a food crisis. Additionally, food safety refers to the handling, storing and preparing of food to maintain food nutrients and prevent infection. The World Health Organization (Who) affirms that food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked in assessing food systems.
Food insecurity is classified according to different levels of severity, specifically when either:
● People compromise on food quality and variety;
● There is reducing food quality and people begin to skip meals; and
● When there is no food for one day or more.
As of 2022, there is an ongoing increase in food insecurity in Africa of which climate change is one of the causes. Increasing global temperatures and lack of regular rainfall have led to dry land, crop loss, death of cattle and starving people. It is for this reason that pastoral and agricultural African communities are neither able to carry on their farming activities nor feed themselves.
Geopolitics has also contributed to this crisis. There has been an increase in global grain prices that hinders access to food for people living below the poverty line. However, many Africans have been affected in different ways, irrespective of their economic status. Some reports indicate that the Russia-Ukraine war affects access to food since both States supply more than 40% of Africa’s wheat. This explains the drastic increase in food prices across African States, which has made it difficult for citizens to purchase items like bread. For instance, some families in Kenya have even opted to skip lunch as they consider it a luxury due to the price increase.
The food crisis has triggered debates on the crucial need for Africa to be more self-reliant. In the wise words of Malawian President, Lazarus Chakwera, «There is no one outside Africa who is coming to build Africa the way we want it to be built…We already have the natural and mineral resources».This is true as agricultural land in Africa comprises 40% of its total land area.
A journal article similarly places blame on Africa’s reliance on imported food rather than developing their agricultural sector and, most importantly, food policies.
Even if self-reliance is achieved, it has to be maintained through policies that regulate agriculture, food safety, trade and development.
Africa has no food policy which already creates instability in matters of food safety and security.
Consider the issue of hazardous aflatoxin in African maize before the 2022 food crisis. An African Food Policy will bridge the different policy areas and different policy levels through which food systems are governed, identifying priorities for reform and bringing them together under a single roof.
Why is the discussion on Africa’s food crisis relevant? Africa is dangerously close to being severely food insecure, causing global organizations like the Who to step in and offer assistance.
The situation is worsened by climate change where drought is adversely affecting crop production. The combined effect of food insecurity and climate change is one of the causes of mass migration.
The growing African population must also be taken into consideration because if we cannot feed people now, what about in the future? While food security is a human entitlement, leaders must further consider increasing access to education for girls, especially in rural areas, to supersede social and religious stigma on contraceptive means. Evidently, a 2020 study indicates the link between educating girls and a reduction in fertility rates.
Our leaders must hasten discussions on an African food policy and make significant efforts to combat corruption. Even as we power through the food crisis, we truly must work on these issues on the road to self-reliance.
The current infrastructure of most African States can hardly support all its occupants; hence, we must not put this discussion on the back burner, or we will suffer avoidable deaths.