Africa Must Stop Begging for Food, Says UN Report

Namibia was ranked 10th in the human development category, with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.608. This is according to the recently released 2013 United Nations Africa Human Development report.

It is the second report following the first ever report in 2012.

Between 1990 and 2013, Namibia’s HDI value increased from 0.569 to 0.608, an increase of seven percent or an average annual increase of about 0.3 percent. The report includes a ranking of countries based on life expectancy, literacy and quality of life.

Tegegnework Gettu, former director of the programme’s Africa bureau, says tracking and reporting on human development would not have been a necessecity had the African governments met their people’ aspirations 30 years ago. Part of the bigger problem, Gettu says, is the low food production that forces Africa to beg for food, and escalate poverty. “If Africa stopped begging for food one quarter of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa would not be undernourished, and one third of African children would not be stunted,” said Gettu.

Commenting on the report Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo said: “It tells us what we know, that the poverty of Africa is the making of African leaders over the years.” During Asia’s green revolution, for example, many Asian countries spent up to 20 percent of their budgets on agriculture, while African countries currently spend between 5 and 10 percent on the sector. This is despite African leaders’ commitment in 2003 to allocate at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture. Namibia’s national budget has been allocating four percent of total expenditure to its agricultural sector over the past few years and at the beginning of this year various analysts made it clear that this will have to be improved to 10 percent if Namibia is to secure food safety at all times and uplift communal farmers. At the moment, Africa spends more on the military than on agriculture. There is the harsh paradox of suffering amidst plenty on a continent with rich, arable land but unable to feed its citizens. “Hunger and malnutrition remain pervasive on a continent with ample agricultural endowments,” notes Gettu. “Africa has the knowledge, the technology and the means to end hunger and insecurity.” Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most food-insecure region and where poverty is particularly alarming, according to the UNDP. Up to 25 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 856 million people are undernourished, with 15 million people facing serious risks in the Sahel and an equal number in the Horn of Africa. The worsening food situation dampens glowing reports on Africa’s fast-growing economies, which have expanded by an annual average of 5 percent to 6 percent during the past decade. Impressive GDP growth rates in Africa have not translated into the elimination of hunger and malnutrition.

Building a food-secure future for all Africans will only be achieved if efforts span the entire development agenda. Without good roads, for example, surplus food cannot enter the market.

But the right steps can be taken right away to stem the tide of food insecurity. These include “greater agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers, more effective nutrition policies, especially for children, greater community and household resilience to cope with shocks and wider popular participation and empowerment, especially of women and the rural poor.”

The report also urges countries to “end decades of bias against agriculture and women,” because women’s education can lower malnutrition in children more than an increase in household income.

Source : New Era