Ottoabasi Abasiekong: Africa And The Hunger Battle
President Barack Obama several months ago made a $3billion pledge and commitment to combating hunger in the Globe especially in Less Developed Countries like African Nations, as usual his body language, eloquence and superb public speaking skills came to bare as he addressed the Forum.
He made an emphatic statement at the forum ‘50 years ago Africa used to export agricultural products and food, but today it is sad that this continent cannot feed itself’. That was enough to accelerate the need for more action on agriculture.
Africa is blessed with land and vegetation refreshed with lovely streams, springs, and rivers favourable enough to boost agro production. When we take a retrospect to the 1970s this continent was key producer and exporter of agro-products and food exporting to Europe and America, but now it is a different story.
What Went Wrong? Political Interest truncated the sense of commitment that Government should have to ensure that food security in the continent is guaranteed.
In his book ‘Globalization and its discontents’ Professor Joseph Stiglitz Nobel Laureate and distinguished scholar of economics asserted that between the late 70’s and the early 80s African Governments and Policy makers treated with levity the issue of ‘Agricultural Production’ obviously because they felt that exporting it will not be of international trade value.
This led to the diversion to the Crude oil, Diamond, Gold, and other Cash crops productions for International export and trade value that will boost its foreign earning value.
It became a dangerous trend in the late 80s when Ethiopia and Somalia experienced terrible drought which led to famine and an excruciating hunger experience for the horn of Africa to cope with.
African governments couldn’t do much because of the decline in the production of food crops compared to cash crops and mineral resources. Despite its involvements with agencies like the International Fund for Artisanal Development(IFAD), Food and Agricultural Organization(FAO), World Bank, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), food security has not been prioritized.
Professor Ivara Esu another Scholar of Agriculture who served as a former Vice Chancellor of one of Nigeria’s Federal University and a former Minister of the Federal Republic highlighted in his article ‘Food Security and Sustainable Democracy in Nigeria’ that Government must tackle food security with a ‘Holistic Policy Plan’ .
That ‘Holistic Policy plan’ encompasses Increased budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector that will boost production, cover for subsidies for Commercial and peasant farmer groups, increased allocation to agricultural research institutes that will boost further discoveries that will help revolutionize agricultural production and food security in the country.
This also applies to the entire continent as Professor Ango Abdullahi former Special Adviser to the President on Food Security stated several years ago in a symposium on ‘Food Security’ that except ‘politics is separated from agricultural production and food security’, the prospects for battling hunger could be defeated’.
With all this in view the time has come for African Governments and Policy makers in the Agricultural sector to begin a restructuring and sustainable development for massive ‘Agro-production with Food security’.
This will entail three things First a Compulsory improvement in Budget allocation to all the Agricultural Research Institutes, they are not ‘monuments’ but ‘instruments’ for national development and should be empowered to bring new discoveries and innovations that will boost food production and preservation.
Second is the need to Set up an ‘African Farmers Effectiveness Peer Review Scheme’, this initiative will have the mandate of monitoring the Level of support and subsidies member states of the African Union give to their farmers whether ‘Commercial or Peasant’.
It should be empowered to pressurize the Governments that are not encouraging their farmers to step up their game or face sanctions as the issue of ‘hunger’ and ‘famine’ can no longer be taken for granted.
The third is the establishment of the ‘Directorate for Food Security’ which will be supervised by the Ministries of Agriculture across the continent. This Directorate is to manage and effectively allocate funds earmarked to tackle ‘Hunger’ from foreign donors, national budgets and private sector contributions.
It will also ensure that food security machineries and equipments are procured, weekly trainings are carried out in colleges and through the mass media creating awareness on the need for a collective ‘African Value for Agricultural production and food security’.
Every Month the Directorates of Food Security Heads across the continent should meet monthly to review their activities and how the issue of ‘Hunger’ is being tackled.
There are predictions by analysts of a Global famine due to a decline in agricultural production, Now is the time for African governments in partnership with the private sector to tackle the issue of ‘Food Security’ effectively, where there is no ‘Food Security’ then ‘Hunger’ will prevail and that could be devastating for a promising continent.