Investing in the agricultural sectors is key to eradicating poverty

21May 2020
The Guardian
Investing in the agricultural sectors is key to eradicating poverty

In politics, humanitarian aid, and social science, hunger is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. So in the field of hunger relief, the term hunger is used in a sense that goes beyond the common desire for food that-

-all humans experience.

Throughout history, portions of the world's population have often suffered sustained periods of hunger. In many cases, hunger resulted from food supply disruptions caused by war, plagues, or adverse weather. In the decades following World War II, technological progress and enhanced political cooperation suggested it might be possible to substantially reduce the number of people suffering from hunger. While progress was uneven, by 2015 the threat of extreme hunger subsided for many of the world's population. According to figures published by the FAO in 2019 however, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has been increasing over the last four years. This is both as a percentage of the world's population, and in absolute terms, with about 821 million afflicted with hunger in 2018.

While most of the world's hungry people continue to live in Asia, much of the increase in hunger since 2015 occurred in Africa and South America. The FAO's 2018 report focused on extreme weather as a primary driver of the increase in hunger.

While the FAO's 2019 report found there was also a strong correlation between increases in hunger and countries that had suffered an economic slowdown.

Many thousands of organisations are engaged in the field of hunger relief; operating at local, national, regional or international levels. Some of these organisations are dedicated to hunger relief, while others may work in a number of different fields. At the global level, much of the world's hunger relief efforts are coordinated by the UN, and geared towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for "Zero hunger"

There are a number of significant changes that are happening in Africa, the most important being that it is a continent with some of the fastest growing economies. Five of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.

This has resulted in increased wealth in a segment of the population, with its attendant shift in food consumption patterns.

Africa’s population is also growing fast. For instance, between 2015 and 2050, the populations of 28 African countries are estimated to have more than doubled.

Combining the effects of consumption pattern changes and the high population means that the agriculture sector must respond by not only producing more food, but also food that appeals to a wealthier society.

African countries will likely continue to experience lower agricultural yields due to the impact of climate change, encroachment of agricultural lands – particularly crop and rangelands and, biodiversity loss.

In order to ensure sustainability of the agriculture sector, increased and quality investments need to be channeled into the sector.

A majority of Africa’s poor population lives in rural areas. Increasing investments into the agriculture sector can therefore play a critical role in poverty alleviation, especially rural poverty, since the majority of rural poor depend on agricultural activities for their livelihoods.

Further, agriculture is key not only to on-farm activities – it largely supports off-farm activities that contribute directly and indirectly to increased household incomes, hence reduction of poverty and inequality.

The agriculture sector and its associated services will therefore remain as the most important pillar for food security and nutrition. The sector will also remain a critical engine for inclusive economic growth and transformation in Africa.

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