25 October 2010

East Africa: Commitment Lacking on Food


Last week, the world over celebrated World Food Day and this year's theme was "United against Hunger". This was chosen to recognize efforts made in the fight against world hunger at national, regional and international levels.

In East Africa the World Food Programme and all government, NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector work all spoke out about the need to fight hunger, extreme poverty, disease and malnutrition. However, the spotlight in the region focused on smallholder farmers who comprise over 80% of the population.

This number is coming down fast as large numbers move to the urban areas in search for jobs and better social economic opportunities. Although the majority of the rural folk depend on agriculture for both food and income, hunger, malnutrition and disease are still endemic.

In fact in the last 50 years of independence, many communities especially in Sub Saharan Africa are still grappling with a shortage of food and water. The UN has set Eradication of hunger and extreme poverty as the first of eight Millennium Development Goals.

The EAC countries, which are signatories to the MDGs, all in principle agreed to work to "Reverse the decline in domestic funding for agriculture and promote new investment in the sector, to improve governance of global food issues in partnership with relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector, and to proactively face the challenges of climate change to food security."

However, up to now there is not very serious concerted effort to do this. That is why ActionAid in collaboration with Food Rights Alliance (FRA) and the International Food Security Network (IFSN), have taken the fight to the public and the question they are asking is: "Who's really fighting hunger?"

In a comprehensive report they released recently, the organisations have urged governments to take action to give the majority of the small farmer's opportunity to live a hunger- free life. They want governments to fast track the passing and implementation of the Natural Seed Policy, Food Nutrition Bill and the National Agricultural Policy without further delay. The old adage goes that a "Hungry man is an angry man". Future instability could be focus around food insecurity.

With a GDP of $40 billion, water, a vibrant Human Resource, land, we need not say we are lacking in resources, we are only lacking in commitment!

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