The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) first-ever Africa Human Development Report (AHDR) in May, which focused on moving Africa “Towards a food secure future,” provided analysis and recommendations on how the continent could achieve such a future. The publication of the 190-page report has sparked tremendous conversation on just how African can keep its people fed.
“Africa is not fated to starve,” Tegegnework Gettu, director of the UNDP’s Africa bureau, wrote in the report’s preface. “That is an affront to both its dignity and its potential…. Africa must stop begging for food…. Had the African governments over the last 30 years met their people’s aspirations, the report would not be necessary. One quarter of the people in sub-Saharan Africa would not be undernourished, and one third of African children would not be stunted.”
Gettu’s words are a powerful indictment of African leadership, and have already been co-signed by other strong voices. Former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo backed the report, saying, “It tells us what we know: that the poverty of Africa is the making of African leaders over the years.”
Specifically, the report notes that Africa spends more money on military forces than it does on agriculture. Currently, only between 5 to 10 percent of the budget is allocated to agricultural efforts. During Asia’s green revolution in the late 70s, Asian countries spent up to 20 percent of their budget on farming endeavors.
Furthermore, the report notes that upwards of 25 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s 856 million people are undernourished, making the region the world’s most food insecure. These numbers come even as the region’s economies continue to grow by 5 to 6 percent on average every year.
Increased involvement of smallholder farms, rural populations and women specifically would have an immediate positive impact on the region’s food security crisis, according to the UNDP. Particularly, discrimination against women in both land owning and education opportunities has led to large amounts of instability. The report notes that educating mothers would do more to lower malnutrition in children than an increase in household income.
While consistent economic growth will bode well for the future of African nations, food security will be necessary for the progress of their people. If the current crisis status in the region can be reversed, the ADHP report will hold more value than any rankings could provide.