22 May 2012

Africa: Food Security and Nutrition Need Global Push

AT their just-ended summit in Camp David, USA, G-8 and African leaders expressed their commitment to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, global food security being the overall aspiration.

President Jakaya Kikwete was one of the African heads of state invited to the summit, which, by the way, is a plus for Tanzania and an endorsement to the country's commitment towards increased agricultural production.

The summit could not have come at a more appropriate moment. According to a report by Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), agriculture in the continent "is in a crisis."

According to the report, although total output has been rising steadily, often by simply extending the land area under cultivation, such growth has barely kept pace with Africa's increasing population.

Food production in particular has lagged the report, presumably compiled after intense research. The number of chronically undernourished people increased from 173 million in 1990-92 to 200 million in 1997-99, the latest years for which accurate figures are available.

Of that total, 194 million were in sub-Saharan Africa. This growth in hunger has come despite high levels of food imports - costing 18.7 billion US dollars in 2000 alone.

Despite some 'progress' made the situation, as illustrated above, has been a wake-up call and governments in Africa and agriculture-related institutions have been pressing for an increase in responsible domestic and foreign private investments in continental agriculture.

The challenge that lies ahead for African leaders, on behalf of their people, is to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in agriculture and come up with innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale.

Against this background, it is gratifying to note that the G-8 leaders have pledged at the summit to lift millions of Africans out of poverty by promoting investments in sustainable agriculture.

This is exactly what Africa needs and in that vein, what Tanzania needs. That is why the launching of a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to accelerate the flow of private capital to African agriculture and take to scale new technologies and innovations is a commendable move.

Food, like they say for water, is life. Inadequate food production, which has resulted in acute food shortages, hunger and malnutrition, must be tackled from all angles. It needs a global alliance and commitment. Let it be.

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