By Emmanuel Ntirenganya
Pangs of hunger is a bitter experience that no one would prefer to feel, as the subject is left weak, feeble owing to body nutrient deficit. And a saying goes that a ‘hungry man is an angry man’. But, now, awful reality is that at least one in 10 people suffers from hunger, as per a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The report titled “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017,” shows that the number of hungry people in the world went up to 815 million in 2016 — representing 11% of the world’s total population —, compared to 777 million in 2015.
The hungry or malnourished people include 520 million in Asia, 243 million in Africa, and 42 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Considering the size of the population by region and the affected people, Africa has the highest number of malnourished people in the world.
The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 – 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries in conflict settings, according to the report.
More over, the publication shows that 155 million children under 5 years of age suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age); while 52 million other children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height).
The report was released in Rome, Italy on September 15, 2017.
“The failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world,” said in their joint foreword to the report the heads of FAO, José Graziano da Silva; the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert F. Houngbo; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake; the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley; and the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
They stressed that some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children in the world are now concentrated in conflict, or crisis stricken zones.
“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: We are more determined and committed than ever to step up concerted action to fulfil the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and achieve a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty,” they contended.
“Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached if we strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes
that leave so many people food-insecure, jeopardizing their lives, futures, and the futures of their societies,” they proceeded in their forward.
The figures raise concerns over world’s zero hunger, and poverty eradication target
By 2050, the world’s population is projected to increase to 10 billion from over 7 billion currently. And, as per FAO, food production should increase by at least 50 percent the current amount if those people are to meet food needs by 2050.
Yet, the world wants to achieve zero hunger target by 2030 set under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
FAO says it believes that if conflicts, violence and fragility are addressed and peace ensured, coupled with right and well-informed agricultural policies that build resilience of smallholder farmers in a sustainable manner, zero hunger ideal can be a reality.
In the 2016 FAO report on State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) titled “Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, FAO stated that the sheer number of smallholder farm families in developing countries – some 475 million – justifies a specific focus on the threat posed by climate change to their livelihoods and the urgent need to transform those livelihoods along sustainable pathways.
It underscores that success in transforming food and agriculture systems will largely depend on urgently supporting smallholder farmers in adapting to climate change.
The report reiterated that the total smallholder financing needs in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia are some US$210 billion per year.
Africa’s challenge and proposed solution
Talking about Africa, the continent has relatively land more suitable for agriculture, and about half of the world’s land that is not currently being utilised. Yet, Africa spends about 35 billion US dollars on importing food, and according to the African Development Bank’s projections, this food import bill might even rise to $110 billion dollars by 2025 if the status quo remains.
But, African Progress Panel — a group of 10 experienced individuals from private and public sectors led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who advocate for equitable and sustainable development for Africa — states that Africa can make use of its land and move from being an importer of food to a global food basket, get a lion’s share of food market, as well as create more jobs for its people.
After emerging the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of AfDB announced that he will not rest until Africa breaks out of hunger.
Adesina was quoted by “THISDAY” as saying that 58 million African kids are malnourished and stunted, and that malnutrition and stunting alone cost Africa 25 billion dollars a year.
African Development Bank states that agriculture transformation requires development of high-yield seeds through regional R&D and improve extension services to facilitate the adoption of new seeds and farming technologies and techniques; and develop support mechanisms for small farmers’ organizations, cooperatives, and associations to give them greater voice in the market, as well as sound value addition through agro-processing.
During the 2017 Agricultural Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan in this September, three of the biggest funders of African agricultural transformation, namely the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a new $280 million partnership to increase incomes and improve the food security of 30 million smallholder farm households across 11 African countries, including Rwanda by 2021.