The paper discusses the impacts that arise from food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa and discussing strategies around the world that can improve the situation for the worst affected peoples.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been vulnerable to food insecurity as a result of the existing extreme weather events, increased rates of poverty, lack of successful local agriculture, inability and disinterest to take action by local officials coupled with infrastructures that are inadequate such as roads and telecommunication networks which have lead to the decrease in production and distribution capacities (Dermott, 2010). The situation has been complicated further by the existence of disorganized and inefficient international response to crisis.
Climate change has become an inevitable process especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where it has caused negative impacts not only to rainfall deficits and projected warming, but has also made the Sub-Saharan Africa population vulnerable. The severe impact has been felt upon food security which encompasses three components that is access, availability and utilization (Thompson et.al, 2010).Due to the climate change effects, there has been decreased crop productivity, land degradation coupled with high market prices, negative effects on the people’s livelihood and increased malnutrition.
Africa as a continent, has been commonly identified as a region that is highly vulnerable to the change of climate (Cooper et.al, 2008).This has been characterized by the political, economic and social constrains that develops human capacity systems to cope up with external stressors of climate change and the related hazards.
Impacts of food insecurity in Sub-Sahara Africa
Since the late 1950s, food insecurity crisis has been characterized as a supply issue in the Sub-Sahara Africa. Lack of successful and widespread agriculture, has influenced the failure of the local governments to provide food that is enough for their population. This has resulted to dependency on food aid. In reaction to the food insecurity issue, the Western governments and some aid organizations have sought to supply foreign food aid to Sub-Sahara Africa in the form of imported crops mainly from developed and wealthy countries (Paul, 2008).In the recent years, these tactics have been implemented and have extended to comprise support for improved and new technologies in order to advance agriculture and increase food supply systems in Africa. The new and advanced technologies include the exportation of better farming equipment, the use of herbicides and pesticides and the widespread use of Genetically Modified (GM) seeds to produce crops in large quantities. Presently there has been a global push to provide more comprehensive solutions that will help deal with the modern pressures and help compound the situation as the plight of the African nations can no longer be based on the idea of shortage. Some people have argued that the problem is not food security, but inadequacy in the international and local actors to supply food where it is much needed in a timely and cost effective manner. Therefore, the global community needs to think outside the supply box and come up with a solution that will combine modern methods that are innovative in order to solve the various problems that contributes to food insecurity. The adaptation strategies to be implemented should act as a means of mitigating the situation of severe food insecurity across the entire region of the Sub-Saharan Africa and other nations in the world. The strategies need to focus on development issues whereby adaptation is an important key to counteract the negative impacts and also improve the population potential to undergo development processes.
Strategies used to improve the situation for the worst affected populations in the world
As discussed above, it is evident that the initiative of initially providing sufficient food to Sub-Saharan Africa has become outdated as it has failed to meet the various challenges created by the ever changing environmental and economic factors. The provision of food aid by the United States and other developed countries in the form of subsidized genetically modified crops has been proved unsuccessful in the twenty-first century. This is because of the ever increasing cost of international transportation annually and the shipping of massive quantities of food has become too expensive. In addition to that, when food arrives in Africa from the developed countries, the aid groups operating in the conflict zones often struggle to deliver the food to all the affected people. This is as a result of existing uncooperative governments who have left the work of feeding the hungry to the international non-governmental organizations. (Fondo, 2008).The existing controversy over the GM crops safety, has contributed to some of the African countries rejecting the help of this kind of nature thus creating tension among the food donors and the recipient countries. Moreover, suggestions to develop and implement factory farming have run up against the existing objection from farmers who still wish to rely on the traditional methods of agriculture.
As a result of the conditions above, new and alternative concepts have been proposed to change the way aid is provided to the worst affected people in the world. The initiatives proposed and implemented have fostered a more preventive response to putting an end to the food crisis. Western countries together with the large aid agencies have supported the idea of consolidating the food aid efforts. In the need to deliver aid food in a more effective and efficient way possible, policy makers have started to come up with ideas that will enable them share responsibilities, cut down on transportation costs and spend their finances effectively without wasting. In order to achieve this, there has been a movement toward offering assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of monitory aid with less emphasis on crop importation. Monitory aid has been provided in the form of development loans and microfinance. Stronger support has been directed to the regional and local agriculture through the replacement of the existing large factory farms that concentrate their efforts on the exportation rather than importation of crops. This steps would be beneficial if implemented by the Sub-Saharan Africa government as they will help them further develop , improve their infrastructure and institutions such as schools , hospitals , transport and communication that will increase food supply as well as economic growth for the overall region thus proving employment and effective services to its population.
Of all the alternative proposals, one of the most progressive is to find answers for climate change as it is the root cause of food insecurity. Resulting changes in rainfall patterns, annual temperatures, weather patterns and soil quality, have tremendously affected the Sub-Saharan Africa region and has triggered the recent food challenges. Therefore scientists have introduced climate prediction models that would help farmers and policy makers determine the weather patterns in advance (Gregory et.al,2005).With this available technologies , level of preparedness against drought and other potential disaster conditions will be enhanced thus improving rural farming and prevention of massive loss of crops.
According to Gonzalez (2010), since the formation of the United Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), its main objective was to combat hunger through out the world by the use of various strategies such as improving agriculture, fishing and livestock rearing. The original purpose of the organization was to handle the problem of hunger through the initiation of various actions that would be coordinated world wide and not restricted to measures that are taken by the governments of the nations suffering from ssfood insecurity. The organization has been able to bring various parties together on a world wide scale and has had the opportunity to define the world agriculture and food policies (Philips & Ilcan, 2003).The World Food Summit together with Food and Agriculture Organization, have placed emphasis on the monitoring progress towards hunger target through establishment of food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping systems in order to monitor national and global efforts to reach the World Food Summit (WFS) goals. The WFS has also put in place plan of actions to move towards eliminating hunger and persistent food insecurity crisis. The strategies that have been proposed by the above two organizations are based on livelihood approaches (Farrington, 2001).The elements identified to be relevant to this particular approach were such as:
- Focusing on the diverse strategies such as farming, livestock rearing, non-farm employment and migration .Assets such as economic, human , financial, natural resources , social and political were also the centre of their focus
- Analyzing of existing constraints that are faced by people in pursuing the above strategies or in the access of the named assets
- Establishing the impacts of politics, policies , formal and informal institutions on the population
- Analyzing the impact of factors outside the control of the vulnerable groups such as War, HIV/AIDS, floods among others and constrain that is related to seasons.
- Through focusing on the outcomes that people aim to accomplish through the pursuit of the livelihood strategies such as security, increased income and well being.
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Rights based approaches on the other hand, have emerged from the inclusive of the humans’ rights framework that has been based on what is perceived. For example, people everywhere should have the capability to claim a number of fundamental political, civil, economic and socio-cultural rights irrespective of religion, culture, race or gender. This emphasizes on the right to food and free from hunger to be inseparable from other social and economic rights such as right to a means of living (Hussein, 2002). Socio-economic rights have been receiving less attention compared to political and civil rights though the two sets of rights have been considered to have equal weight in the international law. This has stirred up the growing interests among the campaigners and the international Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and some donors to anchor efforts of addressing food security in a rights approach. Though with the availability of the Social and economic rights, the human rights approach continues to face problems of implementation by various governments thereby making food insecurity a difficult issue to address. This has resulted to key intergovernmental agencies responsible for agriculture and food to follow up the agenda of the donor (Van de Sand, 2001). For these organizations to succeed, commitment to the right to food should not only restrict itself to investments in agriculture but also indulge in initiatives that would strengthen the wider livelihood opportunities, economic power of bargaining and the political influence of the poor and their organizations such as the International Fund for Agriculture Development, and ensure the development of participatory livelihoods centered programs whose main objective is to promote sustainable development.
The international non-governmental organizations in the globe have been on the fore front campaigning for actions against hunger in the developing countries, Sub-Saharan Africa being one of them through stressing the importance of the following:
- Civil societies strong participation in initiatives to eliminate hunger
- Food sovereignty and the peoples right to oppose the destructive effects of the international trade liberalization, establish their own policies that focus on sustainable food production , distribution and consumption and also to come up with strategies that will ensure the realization of the right to adequate food for all
- Diverting the emphasis away from bolstering the food-centered international institutions influence in relation to the international Monitory Fund and the World Bank and focus their efforts on promoting reforms in the political process and international economy at the national level through fostering a greater role for local initiatives and civil society.
The international non-governmental organizations have also played a critical role in addressing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Sub-Saharans Africa.HIV/AIDS has had profound effects on the livelihoods of Sub-Saharan Africa people such as death of the working-age adults, channeling of resources to care for those ailing from the disease and the rapture of traditional chains of transmission knowledge. Non governmental organizations are responding to this calamity by providing assistance to those communities that are affected by the epidemic in the fields of skills training, agriculture and microfinance and production of home care and support systems. This has led to improved productivity of the nation as people are equipped with knowledge and can become self employed and earn a leaving rather than depending on food aid (White and Morton, 2005).These organizations have put their focus on the previously ignored groups such as the school dropouts, women and orphans and this has been successful through combination of various factors such as participatory processes to identify the target groups and their active involvement of local political leaders and those adults that are trusted by young people in various project activities. However, they are also faced with challenges such as the improvement on the monitoring systems, effectiveness in the dissemination of lessons learned and the persuading of donors who are responsible for the epidemic preventive and health care services to support livelihoods interventions as an issue of urgency. The aggregate impacts of the epidemic are increasingly visible for example their has been experienced dramatic reductions in life expectancy, loss of adult workers in all sectors of the economy and a striking increase in orphans and other vulnerable children numbers(UNICEF,2002). The dealing with this epidemic will reduce the number of deaths experienced and improve productivity.
Local and Regional procurement (LRP) often provides a tool that reduces food aid costs and delivery time though multiple challenges of ensuring timely delivery and cost saving exist. Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the U.S.A established that local procurements in Sub-Saharan Africa cost was about 34%less than the food purchased and shipped from the United States to the same countries. United states being an international food aid donor therefore contributing almost half of all food supplies with the aim of alleviating hunger and supporting development, it also plays a greater role in responding to emergence food assistance needs and in ensuring global food security. In 2008, it provided more than 2.8 billion dollars in a year sand in addition to that; it supplemented funding for United States based international programs that enabled the purchase of 2.9million metric tons of food aid. Majority of the United States food assistance is for its grown commodities that are purchased competitively in the United States and shipped to countries facing food insecurity on united flag carriers. Even though this approach has been able to supply large amounts of food to millions of undernourished people in the world over the past years, there have been reportedly significant limitations to its effectiveness and efficiency and improvement in areas such as monitoring and transportation (GAO, 2007).
United Nation (UN) has also promoted international programs and meetings in an effort to get commitments from various organizations such as national governments and private and non-governmental organizations in order to reduce the problem of hunger in the world. For example, the Millennium Summit meeting was organized and attended by one hundred and ninety one governments and its main objective was to eradicate poverty by the year 2015 by reducing half the number of people in the world receiving incomes below $1per day. In the world today, the debate on food security has adopted a critical approach that oversees the transformation of agriculture and rural societies in the world.
Where as international organizations and governments compete for headlines and pledge for efforts to combat climate change, meet the United Nations millennium development goals and manage natural resource base and ecosystems, the world poor are struggling to sustain their livelihoods and make a living in the fragile and vulnerable environments (Assan & Kumar, 2010).Various workshops have been held in order to come up with policies that will ensure livelihood security and enhance livelihood options available to the poor in the changing fragile environment. The objective of the policy arena developed, was to explore and understand the nature to which livelihood options of the worlds poor are being reshaped by climate and environmental variability in developing countries. Therefore, a livelihood can only be considered sustainable when it can cope and recover from shocks. It should also have the capability to maintain its assets while not undermining its natural resource base. (Hussein & Nelson, 1998).The poor depend on the environmental resource for services such as food provision, fuel wood and water thus climate change affect them thus increasing their poverty levels. There have been efforts made to bridge the gap between climate/environmental variability, policy interventions and contemporary livelihood adaptation. Climate change often results to reduced amounts of rainfall and increased temperatures therefore causing complications for the livelihoods of the rural dwellers that depend on the environment for their survival. This has resulted to opening of policy debates on the importance of investing in low potential areas through the improvement of infrastructures and provision of social protection measures.
Challenges faced in addressing Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa
The development of water resources has been the main challenge although it has been recognized by the government. It is evident that water resources for agricultural development have not been integrated effectively in the support for the majority of farmers who are Africans. In order to address this issue initiatives have been put in place to restrict individuals from occupying agricultural areas for purposes of conserving natural resources and mitigating climate change. However, it is argued that, it’s the policy measures that are responsible for this concern and are likely to have an impact than the environmental hazards on the livelihood of the people. For example, the policies existing should restrict expansion of land and water use for agriculture and also prevent conversion of forests and other wild ecosystems into agricultural land or for commercial purposes. If policies are weak, then their will be no environmental sustainability. This is exactly the opposite in Sub-Saharan Africa as deforestation rates in this country are among the highest in the world at 4.1million hectares per year (UN, 2009).
Those who are concerned for the difficulties of Sub-Saharan Africa should focus their efforts on freeing it from the reliance on foreign aid and relief assistance and encourage it to become an independent state by combating the effects of climate change through sustainable environmental management. For example, through protection of forest natural resources from overexploitation by the inhabitants residing near these resources and the political elites through putting in place stringent policies. This can be achieved through various ways such as, offering support for regional and local farming through training the farmers on the advanced method of farming. Scientist should also come up with climate prediction methods that are adequate, financial aid to be provided to aid in development of infrastructures that will enhance distribution and delivery of products across various markets and a more united aid initiative should be put in place in order to lead Sub-Saharan Africa towards food sources that are sustainable, reliable and more secure future. There should be establishment of political structures and property functioning economy that would enable developing countries to improve their overall well being.
Sub-Saharan Africa is still struggling with underdevelopment and the high population that is food insecure as a result of climate change. Therefore, if the country wants to break the cycle of malnutrition and poverty it should invest on development and reduce its dependency on foreign aid. Though climate change is also another challenge, they should come up with mitigation measures though mitigation does not eliminate impacts, adaptation is an important factor to consider through balancing the needs of nature and humans. Sub-Saharan Africa should also take the initiative of supporting the vulnerable groups such as orphans, women, young people who are being affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This can be achieved through the promotion of appropriate technologies for agriculture production, strategic income generation activities, skills training and provision of credits. Efforts should be made to ensure that donors increase their funding for initiatives put in place to mitigate impacts of HIV/AIDS. This can be made possible by critical analysis of achievements and experiences to date disseminated to donor agencies and other practitioners.
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