Zimbabwe: Hunger Pandemic Deepens

African countries must urgently boost their agriculture budgets as well as food stockpiles and keep supplies flowing to avert a likely hunger crisis, currently heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, a new report has revealed.

Compiled by the African Development Institute (ADI) following a seminar held recently titled, the report is titled Building Resilience in Food Systems and Agricultural Value Chains: Agricultural Policy Responses to COVID-19 in Africa.

It warns that there is an urgent need for African countries to come up with a coordinated action to tame the tide caused by the pandemic.

The report notes that Africa currently relies on more than US$47 billion worth of food imports to supplement domestic supply to feed its citizens, and this could increase to US$110 billion by 2025.

"Every US$1 billion spent on food imports is equivalent to 670 000 on-farm jobs and 200 000 off-farm jobs exported elsewhere, while millions of Africa's teeming youths remain unemployed," the report reads in part.

It also says more than 218 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished--an increase of 44 million in the past 25 years."Close to 40% of children under five years of age in Africa are under-nourished.

Rising food insecurity in rural villages is driving increasing social insecurity and rural-urban migration is rising as the hunger pandemic deepens," the report says.

"Already, 135 million people worldwide are experiencing critical food insecurity. Without urgent coordinated action to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on food production and supply, upwards of 265 million people could be on the brink of starvation globally, almost double the current rate of crisis-level food insecurity."

"Children under 5 years who survive the hunger pandemic during Covid-19 lockdown may suffer stunting and reduced brain development--a condition that could limit their intelligence quotient capacity," it said.

However, delegates who attended the seminar noted that Covid-19 was not to blame for Africa's challenges.

They said Africa has 20% of the world's natural gold reserves, 56% of natural diamond reserves, 21% of natural phosphate rocks, 69,4% of natural platinum reserves, 60% of cobalt, and 9% of copper reserves, 60% of arable land, 13% of the global population, abundant energy potential, many smart and innovative people, and many friends globally.

"Africa must now, more than ever, adopt policies to enhance resilience capacity to compete in agricultural production, processing, trade and industry," the report said.

The seminar proffered several policy options to address the hunger pandemic during and after the Covid-19 lockdown and build more resilient food systems and agricultural value chains in Africa.

These include short-term policies to "keep the "bones of arteries" of the domestic food systems and inter-regional food supply chains open during the pandemic"; medium-term structural reforms to re-prioritise food systems and agricultural value chains during the economic recovery and rebuilding phase, and long-term policies to enhance self-sufficiency in food production, value addition and inter-regional trade.

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