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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Food security for Africa: an urgent global challenge

Albert Sasson

Author Affiliations

Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology (Rabat, Morocco), Bio-Euro-Latina (Paris, Madrid),Former Assistant Director-General of UNESCO (Paris), 51 Rue d’Alleray, Paris, 75015, France

Agriculture & Food Security 2012, 1:2  doi:10.1186/2048-7010-1-2

Published: 19 April 2012

Abstract

In 2012, food insecurity is still a major global concern as 1 billion people are suffering from starvation, under-, and malnutrition, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has concluded that we are still far from reaching millennium development goal (MDG) number 1: to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people suffering from hunger is estimated at 239 million, and this figure could increase in the near future.

There are many examples of food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa, some of them having reached catastrophic dimensions, for example, in the Horn of Africa or southern Madagascar. Food insecurity is not just about insufficient food production, availability, and intake, it is also about the poor quality or nutritional value of the food. The detrimental situation of women and children is particularly serious, as well as the situation among female teenagers, who receive less food than their male counterparts in the same households.

Soaring food prices and food riots are among the many symptoms of the prevailing food crisis and insecurity. Climate change and weather vagaries, present and forecast, are generally compounding food insecurity and drastically changing farming activities, as diagnosed by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in June 2011.

The key cause of food insecurity is inadequate food production. Since the global food crisis of 2007–2008, there has been an increasing awareness throughout the world that we must produce more and better food; and we should not be derailed from this goal, despite some relief brought by the good cereal harvests in 2011–2012. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, which needs and wants to make its own green revolution.

The African challenge indeed is key to mitigating food insecurity in the world. Commitments were made by the heads of states and governments of the African Union to double the part of their domestic budgets devoted to agriculture in 2010–2011, so as to reach 10%. Technical solutions exist and there are indeed, throughout Africa, good examples of higher-yielding and sustainable agriculture. But good practices have to spread throughout the continent, while at the same time social and economic measures, as well as political will, are indispensable ingredients of Africa’s green revolution. It is also necessary that international donors fulfil their commitment to help African farmers and rural communities and protect them against unfair trade, competition, and dumping of cheap agrifood products from overseas.

Keywords:
Millennium development oals (MDGs); food insecurity; food quality; food riots; volatility of food prices; climate change; inadequate food supply; green revolution; Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); fair trade; trade barriers; African farmers