By Agbaje Ayomide
It is no gainsaying the fact that there can be no sustainable reduction of hunger in Africa without the expedient need to ensure food security.
Over the past years, immense efforts have been made by the governments, stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and reputable international bodies to end hunger crisis and curtail food insecurity most African countries are confronted with. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, about 153 million people suffered from severe food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of people especially in the rural areas have died as a result of chronic starvation, and putting others at great risk of suffering from the famine in drought-prone areas while many have been displaced and become refugees in faraway regions in desperate search for food and to secure their livelihoods. This disaster has over time had its widespread effect to almost all African countries with an exponential increase, thereby requiring an exigent need for humanitarian intervention more than ever before.
Root causes on a broader perspective
However, different root causes can be linked to the disaster that has ravaged the continent; varying from poverty, conflicts, climate change (drought and adverse weather conditions), environmental degradation, high food prices and harsh economic realities. Children are often the worst affected, with their health and education largely and drastically impacted – mostly with disease outbreaks. 66 million primary school-age children attend classes in school hungry across the world, with 23 million in Africa alone. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 per cent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth. In under-developed and developing countries, the proportion can rise to one in three. In fact, in the most recent estimate, approximately 239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry. Out of those, 30 percent were undernourished.
These root causes create a vicious cycle that seems to be very difficult to break. When conflicts endure, people would flee their homes and communities to others and are unable to plant crops and harvest the farm produces. Then less foods get harvested, prices nosedive, putting the survival prospects of families in abyss in the face of the closure of market avenues. Conflicts, in most situations, worsen because humanitarian agencies often cannot access the affected communities to bring emergency aids and reliefs.
However, droughts have become more frequent and intense in recent years in Africa. These droughts affect food-production systems in fragile contexts in similar ways that conflict does. Less food and water also means vast numbers of dead livestock in affected areas. These devastate families’ source of income and food, and thus perpetuates the cycle of poverty and deprivation.
Nigeria in context
Nigeria, like in most African countries, has also had its own fair share of food crisis, plunging her into a perpetual state of poverty and as such more hunger. Hundreds of families particularly in the Northern part of the country survive on meager handouts for subsistence, thus making their children suffer from malnutrition and infectious diseases. Sadly, these malnourished children are always left in unkempt looks and torn clothes roaming the streets with small bowls in hands begging for money and food from passers-by, thereby making them vulnerable to the dangers and threats of the society. This has come to be their way of life due to the circumstances that bring about nutritional challenges, perhaps with no hope for an improved state of affairs and a better future. For example, ‘Almajiri’ is one the phenomena the group of these children are often referred to. This system has grossly abused their right to quality education, proper nutrition, good health and security. This makes one wonder what becomes the fate of the commons and the future of these children.
This is not far from the case as it is with other African states. For instance, 6 million people in the East African region are displaced due to conflict and drought, making them heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their needs. Also, communicable diseases threaten the lives of children. More than 131,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea or cholera were reported in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya during 2017, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In recent times, NGOs are now springing up in heavy waves to fight for the rights and call for the social inclusion of the vulnerable children and hungry masses on the continent.
The way forward
Organizations, like the Journalism for SDGs, should continue increasing the public awareness about the plights of those affected by hunger crises through media advocacy in a bid to project their untold stories and draw global attention. This will also be in pursuit of the much-needed policies and reforms through the strategic engagement of the government at all levels, policymakers and involved stakeholders to take decisive actions geared towards the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 for the world – `Zero Hunger.’ For an effective advocacy drive, aspects of visual documentary can be incorporated into campaigns to foster engagement and mobilization.
According to the United Nations, agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households. 500 million small farms worldwide provide up to 80% of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. The agriculture sector offers key solutions for sustainable development, and is central for hunger and poverty eradication. Therefore, more research projects in agriculture, as well as food processing and storage should be done in an effort to explore the realities surrounding the inadequacy of food in Africa, and as such recommend measures to address this pressing issue on the continent.
It is no gainsaying the fact that there can be no sustainable reduction of hunger in Africa without the expedient need to ensure food security. And one of the veritable ways this can be achieved is through massive, disruptive agrarian revolution hinged on the integration of an advanced level of technology into the agricultural sector. If this strategy and model of modern technologies should be leveraged upon to improve the system of agricultural outputs and enable efficient storage, the seemingly vicious cycle of hunger is bound to intercept in the long term by making food accessible to the people.
The philanthropists, however, also have a crucial to play by making provision for emergency food aids, disaster reliefs, clean water, sanitation and healthcare services, and education to hungry children and families in African communities. Also, foreign investors should take a chance on investing funds in greenhouse farming and rural development schemes aimed at empowering impoverished families in the rural areas to take up small-scale farming and build sustainable business enterprises. These will not only go a long way in alleviating hunger and fighting poverty by providing jobs and generate decent incomes as means of livelihood at the grassroots level, but also in achieving food security, improving nutrition and standard of living, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices on the continent.
Agbaje Ayomide is a board member at the Journalism for SDGs.