Greetings to All,
As we wipe our tears over the dark clouds that befell us in the Iraq, we
should also be folding our sleeves in anticipation for the seat over our
brows. The effect of the Iraq war is upon the African continent. It is a
haunting and daunting task indeed. The tragedy of the loss of lives is
irreplaceable, but the challenge to restore the dignity and the integrity
of the human spirit are virtues that Africa can contribute. Not that
moral superiority is something we wish to pride ourselves with, but after
centuries of pains and suffering we know too well how the will to restore
self-determination and independence contributes to the will to rebuild
a nation in ruins.
One lost life in adversity, regardless of which side it comes from, is a life
too many. It is for these results that we consider the role that NEPAD
plays in its chapter of Peace and Security as a critical challenge. Even
more pressing is our unflinching resolve that correlation between
democracy and development should be synonymous.
Food Crisis in Africa will be the focus of this month.
THE FOOD CRISIS IN AFRICA
Nature and Scope of the Crisis
Despite substantial socio-economic gains in many African countries
over the last thirty to forty years, hunger remains a major threat to
many people, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1998-2000, more
than a quarter of the population of Africa was chronically
undernourished (202 million people). The prevalence of under
nourishment in Sub-Saharan Africa has declined only slightly over the
past two decades, from 36 % to 33 %. The Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) estimates a decline in the proportion of
undernourished people in Sub-Saharan Africa to 22 % by 2015.
Unfortunately, the absolute number is expected to increase from 180
million in 1995/97 to 184 million in 2015.
The reasons for this dire situation are manifold and include frequent
droughts and floods, particularly in the last 20 years; civil strife, which
has displaced people from their agricultural food production activities;
poor technology and low productivity; lack of appropriate inputs,
particularly high yielding seed varieties and fertilisers; declining soil
fertility; poor agricultural support services; and government policies
which have, in general, not been supportive of the agricultural sector.
HIV/AIDS has increased the severity of the crises by depleting the ability
of communities to participate in labour intensive food production.
1.1. Decline in food production
Africa is the only region in the world where the average food
production per person has been declining over the last 40 years,
putting large segments of the population at risk for food insecurity and
malnutrition. FAO reports that for the continent as a whole, annual per
capita production of cereals has fluctuated between 140 kg and 175
kg during the 1990s -- far below the global average of 358 kg.
Production growth in cereals for sub-Saharan Africa over the past 30
years was around 2.5 % per annum, and is expected to stay roughly at
this level for the next 30 years. See Annex 1 for a comparison of
agricultural indicators between Africa and other developing regions
and income categories
Agricultural production soared world-wide during the second half of
the 20th century through the combination of improved biological
potential of food crop management techniques (wheat yield
quadrupled in Mexico and rice production tripled over a 20 year
period in South Asia). In Africa spending on agricultural research
stagnated over the same period in comparison to other developing
countries, leading analysts to believe that a decline in research and
productivity are inextricably linked.1
1.2. Access to Food
It is the opinion of both the WFP and the Millennium Project Task Force2
that access to food and not a decline in food production, is the main
cause of the current food crisis in Africa. In many African countries
market systems are nonexistent. After a bumper crop, prices collapse
and the farmers have no incentive to increase production. In a bad
year food prices soar and become unaffordable to the majority of
people. Poor or non-existent transport infrastructure further hamperвЂ™s
farmersвЂ™ ability to provide communities with food.
Another factor, which has destabilized and in certain cases destroyed
local agricultural markets, has been the influx of food-aid over the last
30 years. Food-aid has, for many developed countries, become a
method of dispensing of surplus food in their markets. Whilst food-aid
has contributed to commodity price stability in their markets it has led
to further destabilization of African markets.
As an example, in 1987 a WFP report stated that Somalia had
produced a surplus of food that year, yet Private Voluntary
Organisation (PVOвЂ™s) continued to distribute free food. Inevitably,
indigenous food-distribution networks withered and disappeared. The
country's economy adapted to foreign aid - not to production.
Allegations have also been made that much of the food aid by NGOs
and PVOs take place in areas where there are no food shortages, as
these are the areas with adequate infrastructure that facilitates
delivery, with devastating effects on the local markets.3
Once food distribution systems are set in place they become very
difficult to dismantle and even when the crisis is over communities
continue to receive food-aid, which further weakens local production
abilities. In the mid-1990s, out of the world total of 32 million victims of
disasters receiving relief assistance from the WFP4, 21.5 million were
living in Africa. According to WFP, the number of people suffering from
food emergencies in 2001 ranged from 23 to 28 million.
Whilst WFP and FAO conduct assessments and make
recommendations on whether there are possibilities for local or
regional food purchases, WFP depends on voluntary contributions for its
relief activities and has no say as to the origin of the food. By its own
admission it imports food at times when it would be much cheaper to
buy locally or regionally. Purchasing food in the region or even locally
would act as an incentive to local production and would serve to
stabilize food prices. NEPAD could play an important role in changing
the dynamics of food-aid by insisting that at least 50% of the food is
purchased locally, or regionally.
The effect of decreased productivity and increased food-aid are also
visible in trade statistics for Africa. AfricaвЂ™s share of international
agricultural trade has fallen from 8% in 1965 to less than 3% in 2000. For
30 years, agricultural imports in Africa have been increasing faster than
agricultural exports, making the region a net agricultural importer since
1980. WFP statistics show that part of AfricaвЂ™s вЂњimportsвЂќ is food-aid, with
the continent receiving 2.8 million tons in food-aid in the year 2000.
1.3. Commitment to Millennium Goals
The World Bank estimates that financing the successful achievement of
the Millennium Development Goals to cut hunger and poverty in half
by 2015, could cost in the range of $US 40-60 billion a year in additional
aid to developing countries up until 2015. Close to 0.7% of the
Developed WorldвЂ™s GDP. James D Wolfensohn, President of the World
Bank5 called on rich countries to double their overseas aid from the
current level of about $57 billion a year and dramatically cut their
agricultural subsidies. Industrialized countries spend $360 billion
annually on farming subsidies, which has further been inflated by
increased US subsidies in 2003. The Financial Times recently reported
that a European cow receives twice as much in subsidies as a Third
World farmer makes in a year.
There has also been a marked decrease in development assistance
due to so-called donor-fatigue. According to the World Bank, Official
Development Assistance (ODA) flows are down 25% in the last 4 years.
Another factor that influences this trend has been the increase of
donor support for relief activities as opposed to long-term
development. It is estimated that 70% of donor funds are currently
being channelled to relief aid. As already illustrated, providing relief to
the exclusion of development exacerbates the food crisis in the long
term. The increased focus on relief has created a widening gap in the
transition from relief activities to development initiatives and has the
potential of further threatening development and food security on the
Whilst all the governments of the world have signed the Millennium
Declaration, thereby committing themselves to the achievement of the
Millennium Goals, governments in both developing and developed
countries continue to spend billions of dollars on weapons. Even
before September 11, 2001 the UNDP reported that the world spends
$780 billion each year on war and military forces. As stability and
security are prerequisites for sustainable development, the world is, in
effect, spending $2 billion a day on ensuring that there is no sustainable
development. Since the onset of the so-called war on terrorism and
the war on Iraq, the developed world, and most notably the US and
UK, has substantially increased its military expenditure.
To effectively address the food crisis and cut hunger and poverty by
half by 2015, sustainable agricultural development is essential.
However, we cannot focus on these initiatives alone. The fact that
millions are starving with little or no hope of becoming self-sufficient, in
terms of their ability to feed themselves in the near future, must be
Through NEPAD, Africa can ensure that donor money being
channelled into food-aid generates development. It is also clear that
African governments must commit resources to ending the food crisis
and ensuring long-term development on the continent. At the same
time every opportunity should be utilized to remind the G8 of their
commitment to the Millennium Declaration and the need to
cooperate closely with NEPAD to achieve these goals.
An Action Plan on Agricultural has been developed under the auspices
of NEPAD, in consultation with Regional Economic Communities, their
development partners: WFP, FAO, and International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD), the development banks, Civil Society
Organisations, senior government officials and the private sector. This
action plan combines relief and development initiatives.6 Receiving
immediate attention is the development of a programme to address
the food crisis and increase emergency response capacity in Africa in
such a way that the harmful effects of aid will be mitigated and longterm
development will be generated.
Table 1: Comparison of agricultural indicators between Africa and other
developing regions and income categories
Near East and North Africa
East Asia and Pacific
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle income countries
High income countries
Proportion of arable land irrigated
Added value per worker ( $/ year)
Per capita cereal production (kg/year)
Cereal yield (kg/ha)
Livestock productivity (kg/ha)
Fertilizer use (kg/ha)
Multi-Country Agricultural Productivity Programme (MAPP) for Africa.
The UN Millennium Project is a three year initiative conceived of by the United Nations to analyze
policy options and develop a plan of implementation for achieving the Millennium Development
Goals. Dr Pedro Sanchez is the task force coordinator on Hunger.
Michael Maren, an experienced aid worker who worked for the Peace Corps, Catholic Relief Services
(CSR), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) between 1977 and 1982
after which he left the aid business to become a journalist. He made these comments in an address on
the Food вЂ“Aid Racket to Cornell University graduates in 1993.
Unlike PVOвЂ™s and NGOвЂ™s mentioned above the WFP meets the food needs of the most food
insecure and vulnerable households and communities during crisis periods. After emergencies WFP
also offers Protracted Relief and Recovery Operations for up to 3 years to cover the later stages of an
emergency, to help re-establish and stabilise livelihoods and households, to support rehabilitation and
to enable people dislocated by disasters to regain long-term growth.
World Bank Press release 2002/212/
The development initiatives include irrigation schemes, soil fertility projects, infrastructure
development projects, developing and sharing technology to produce high yield seeds, establishing
centers of excellence in Africa to back up development with research, and building capacity of farmers,
governments and regional organisations to develop and utilize agricultural develop and utilize