The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released its first report on hunger conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future” examines the existence of hunger in the region despite “abundant agricultural resources, a favorable growing climate and rapid growth rates.” The report also focuses on food insecurity and proposes four areas of public action to improve the issue. The report was presented at its Brussels launch on 5 June.
According to the report, more than one in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished, and it remains one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. The report shows two paradoxes that exist in Sub-Saharan Africa. First, recent economic progress hasn’t had an adequate impact on malnutrition. Also, food insecurity still exists despite an abundance of natural resources.
“It is striking. It is almost impossible to believe that in the 21st century, there isn’t enough food,” said Antonio Vigilante, director of UN/UNDP Brussels.
The report proposed four areas of public action: increasing agricultural productivity, meeting nutritional challenges, building resilience against things that lower food availability and increasing empowerment and social justice.
Rural areas and women face the most difficulties in food security. The report calls for ensuring equal access to land, markets and information. UNDP also said it is vital to close the gender gap by allowing women the same access to inputs, which could increase yields by more than 20%.
“The role of women in food security, particularly in Africa, is profound and is critical,” said Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, in a UNDP film. “Women are the producers, the marketers, the preservers of food.”
Francesca Mosca, director of Africa, DG DEVCO, European Commission, attended the Brussels launch and spoke on the efforts of the European Union to curb hunger.
“For us, the EU, we have always put food security in the core of our development agenda,” she said. “We have recently shown our attachment to food security and agriculture by committing significant funds to food facility.”
In 2009, the EU pledged €3.8 billion over three years at the L’Aquila G8 Summit to fight hunger and poverty. The EU delivered the commitments in two years. The EU also pledged €250 million this year to its “Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience” (SHARE) initiative, which works to improve the resilience of communities in drought-affected areas.
ONE, a development, advocacy and campaigning organization that works to fight extreme hunger, found the report helpful in talking to politicians and policymakers. Eloise Todd, director of the ONE Campaign in Brussels, said the investment required to solve the problem is substantial. ONE is working to protect agricultural spending in the next EU budget and to protect the European Development Fund.
“Governments are looking to cut wherever they can,” said Todd. “We have to mobilize those funds and protect them to achieve the goals set out by the report.”