Africa has suffered from increasingly serious food crises over the last three decades as a result of natural and man-made disasters and the growing impoverishment of the rural population. The combination of drought, civil strife, poverty and the impact of HIV/AIDS has resulted in a high rate of undernourishment among Africans: over 40 percent of the total population, especially women and children, experience chronic food insecurity. Among children, malnutrition is responsible for very high rates of stunting and infant mortality.
Food shortages reached famine proportions in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa in 1972вЂ“ 1974 and in 1984вЂ“1985 in 25 African countries. Southern Africa faced particularly severe food shortages in 1992вЂ“1993 and 2002вЂ“2003. The Horn was badly affected in 2000вЂ“2001; EthiopiaвЂ™s food crisis in 2002вЂ“2003 affected 13 million people. Coming on top of an already unacceptable situation, these mostly drought-induced food shortages have caused intolerable levels of suffering, leading to the loss of millions of lives and to displacement and loss of livelihood for countless other Africans.
African leaders have decided to take action to reverse this trend. At the second summit meeting of the African Union in Maputo in July 2003, African Heads of State and Governments resolved вЂњto ensure the establishment of regional food-reserve systems, including food stocks, linked to AfricaвЂ™s own production, and the development of policies and strategies under the African Union and Regional Economic Communities, to fight hunger and poverty in AfricaвЂќ. The Heads of State agreed to launch a study of food-reserve systems with a view to identifying actions that could be taken at the regional level, including the possibility of establishing regional stocks, as a means of contributing to the availability of supplies in times of emergency and acute food crisis, and ensuring that people without purchasing power have access to the food they need. This is a major effort by African leaders to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The mandate given for this study was to focus on food-reserve systems; it is not meant to be a study of the broad issue of food security, although some elements of food security are touched upon. It is based on a review of the origins and operational experiences of eight sample countries: in the Sahel, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; in Southern Africa, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia; and in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia and the Sudan. It draws lessons from these experiences that could enhance the effectiveness of existing and future national food-reserve systems in supporting food security policies.
It was commissioned by the New Partnership for AfricaвЂ™s Development, was undertaken by a team of consultants coordinated by the World Food Programme. The Southern African Development Community and the World Bank conducted a parallel study in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia with an emphasis on insurance options that could be used to ensure stability of supplies. The findings of this study and of a preliminary report prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for its Regional Conference for Africa in March 2004 were taken into consideration in finalizing the study for the New
Partnership for AfricaвЂ™s Development. Principal donors, United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations have been consulted. The country reports are available in English at the secretariat of the New Partnership for AfricaвЂ™s Development.