ACHIEVING FOOD SECURITY IN AFRICA.by samuel k. Marketer, Researcher, Biologist
Food security: A situation in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life.
Achieving food security continues to be a challenge not only for the developing nations, but also for the developed world. The difference lies in the magnitude of the problem in terms of its severity and proportion of the population affected.
In developed nations the problem is alleviated by providing targeted food security interventions, including food aid in the form of direct food relief, food stamps, or indirectly through subsidized food production. These are some of the efforts which have significantly reduced food insecurity in these regions.
Same approaches are employed in developing countries but with less success. This is due to insufficient resource base, shorter duration of intervention, or different systems most of which are inherently heterogeneous.
Food security is affected by:
- Unstable social and political environments that preclude sustainable economic growth.
- War and civil strive.
- Macroeconomic imbalances in trade.
- Natural resource constraints.
- Poor human resource base.
- Gender inequality.
- Inadequate education.
- Poor health.
- Natural disasters (floods and locust infestation)
- Absence of good governance.
Over seventy percent of the food insecure population in Africa lives in the rural areas. Ironically, smallholder farmers, the producers of over 90 percent of the continent’s food supply, make up the majority (50 percent) of this population. The rest of the food insecure population consists of the landless poor in rural areas (30 percent) and the urban poor. Throughout the developing world, agriculture accounts for around 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and more than half of total employment. In countries where more than 34 percent of the population is undernourished, agriculture represents 30 percent of GDP and nearly 70 percent of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. This is why developing countries are being asked to move away from agriculture and invest in technology as over 70 percent of the poor live in rural areas, where also the largest proportion of the food insecure live. We cannot significantly and sustainably reduce food insecurity without transforming the living conditions in these areas.
The key lies in increasing the agricultural profitability of smallholder farmers and creating rural off-farm employment opportunities.
Food security has three aspects:
(a) Food availability
(b) food access and
(c) food adequacy
Food availability has to do with the supply of food. This should be sufficient in quantity and quality and also provide variety.
Food access addresses the demand for the food. It is influenced by economic factors, physical infrastructure and consumer preferences. Food availability, though elemental in ensuring food security, does not guarantee it. For households and individuals within them to be food secure, food at their access must be adequate not only in quantity but also in quality. It should ensure an adequate consistent and dependable supply of energy and nutrients through sources that are affordable and socio-culturally acceptable to them at all times. Ultimately food security should translate to an active healthy life for every individual. For this to take place the nutritionally adequate diet should be biologically utilized so that adequate performance is maintained in growth, resistance or recovery from disease, pregnancy, lactation and or physical work. Hence adequate health and care must be provided in addition to adequate food. Herein lies the problem facing poor households today.
Food insecurity has the potential to influence food intake and ultimately the health and nutritional status of households. In the developing countries over 85% of the food consumed by poor households in rural setting is obtained from the farm. The importance of foods purchased from markets in meeting household food security will depends on household food income and market price.
The seasonality of foods available at the household level may highly influence food availability in places where little to no food preservation is practiced. This applies to and fruits and vegetables, which are highly perishable.
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Created on Apr 15th 2012 08:23. Viewed 124 times.