Food security for Africa: An urgent global challenge

16Apr 2021
The Guardian
Food security for Africa: An urgent global challenge

The global food security challenge is straightforward: by 2050, the world must feed 9 billion people. The United Nations has set ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for-

-the year 2030.

Food insecurity was named in the early 2000’s to describe the severity of lacking food sources. Food security is measured by how much members of a household have access to nutritional food, and the capacity for obtaining food in the future through socially accepted means. Food insecurity on the other hand is characterised by the lack of and unreliable access to nutritional food sources.

The state of food security is a heavily scrutinised issue in Tanzania. Agriculture accounts for almost one-third of the nation's GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  It is an aspect of Tanzania that although obstructed by many internal and external factors, is continually worked on by outside forces and the nation itself.

There are several contributors to food security, including economic growth, agricultural policy, environmental changes, climate change and governance.  Furthermore, food security – or lack of it – can have lasting repercussions on a population.

On a global scale, Tanzania is lagging behind in terms of food security. According to the Proteus Global Food Security Index – data collected by the World Food Programme.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, food security has been a global concern — in the second quarter of 2020 there were multiple warnings of famine later in the year.  According to early predictions, hundreds of thousands of people would likely die and millions more experience hunger without concerted efforts to address issues of food security. As of October 2020, these efforts were reducing the risk of widespread starvation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Famines were feared as a result of the COVID-19 recession and some of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Additionally, the 2019–20 locust infestation,  ongoing wars and political turmoil in some nations were also viewed as local causes of hunger.  

Global hunger has reached an alarming level and could grow worse as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, said Catholic Relief Services recently.

The organisation issued a new analysis identifying food crises in 14 countries. The pandemic has created a loss of income for many people, constrained government funding, deepened social inequalities, disrupted trade and supply chains, and restricted non-profit groups’ access to vulnerable areas, CRS said. Combined, these factors have impacted millions of people’s access to food.

The World Bank has reported that for the first time in 20 years, global extreme poverty levels have been on the rise. The report said an estimated 110 to 150 million people worldwide are in extreme poverty.

A report by the World Food Program (WFP) last June predicted that an additional 121 million people will have experienced intense food insecurity by 2021.  

To counter these challenges, Catholic Relief Services has suggested that aid organisations scale up voucher systems for food, support food storage, reach out to isolated groups, consider the impact of the virus on women in particular, and promote cooperative data collection.

The organisation has also called for policymakers to increase foreign aid and support locally-led responses, such as the actions of faith-based organizations. Particularly addressing the United States, CRS asked Congress to allocate at least $20 billion to foreign aid.

As the pandemic drags on, and vaccines are still out of reach for many developing nations, they will likely experience additional waves of the virus that will further exacerbate food insecurity. Africa must act now to avoid a catastrophe, and before decades of development gains are lost.

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