The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today appealed for greater attention to be focused on the food security situation in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly one third of the population is hungry.
With nearly 270 million people malnourished out of a total population in the region of more than 800 million, “this situation clearly demands our urgent and undivided attention,” Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, told government ministers at the agency’s regional conference in Luanda, Angola.
He attributed under-investment in agriculture as the core reason for hunger and malnutrition on the continent.
Only nine African countries have allocated at least 10 per cent of their budgets to agriculture, while official development assistance (ODA) from wealthier countries earmarked for farming in developing countries has dropped off from 19 per cent in 1980 to around 5 per cent today.
Mr. Diouf said that with political will and good governance, “Africa will be able to develop its agriculture to adequately feed its population.”
Despite the toll taken by the recent economic crisis, the downturn has placed “agriculture and food security at the heart of national and regional development policies and programmes, which allows [us] to look to the next decade with greater optimism,” he said.
This should open up opportunities to support small producers and enhance family farming, Mr. Diouf stressed.
Ranging from limited access to water to poor rural infrastructure, FAO said that African agriculture faces multiple hurdles and that it must make significant strides in the coming decades to ensure sustainable food production and achieve food security.
The continent is rich in arable land, water and labour, and the agency said that with appropriate policies, Africa can boost its farm production and incomes.
In 2008, it produced more than 150 million tons of cereals, marking a 12 per cent jump from the previous year. It is projected that cereal production in 2009 could reach 160 million tons.