Possessing the Possible Consciousness of Achieving Food Security for Africa

Africa, world's 2nd largest and most populous continent with more than 1.287 billion people as at March 2018 in 54 sovereign countries is reported to continue to grow and thus become the world's fastest growing continent. It is estimated that by year 2040, the African population will be reaching 2.1 billion people and by year 2050, Africans will be reaching the population size of 2.527 billion people.

Africa is blessed with 874 million hectares of land considered suitable for agricultural purposes but less than 274 million is being cultivated with 600 million hectares being uncultivated. As obtained, the population rate of Africans will still be skyrocketing with the land available for agricultural purposes remaining constant. This means that population is increasing on an exponential rate while landmass is static.

With 82 million hectares of arable land available in Nigeria for food production of which only 34 million are currently being cultivated for food production, food insecurity remains a nightmare that countries in Africa will continually experience. Countries, States and Cities are conscientiously and consciously strategizing on how they can achieve food security for the citizenry because considering the population growth of the Africa continent, if the scourge of food scarcity and insecurity isn’t curtailed, the possibility of achieving economic growth and consequently economic development may be impossible because food security is an essential variable to be considered when measuring economic growth.

Food security is a subject with many definitions as obtained at conferences, summits, institutions and organisations though with common terminologies embedded in the varied definitions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security is defined as when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

The 1974 World Food Conference defines the term "food security" as the "availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices" while the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security "exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life

As defined by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA), food security is the access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

PILLARS OF FOOD SECURITY:

From the definitions above, it can be deduced that there are 4 main pillars on which the subject “food security” is hinged and they include: food availability, food access, food utilization and food stability.

To start with, food availability refers to the supply of food through production, distribution and trade.

Food production doesn’t only mean the quantity and quality of food available but include factors such as land ownership, soil management, crop selection and breeding, livestock selection and breeding and harvesting. Challenges affecting the production of food includes the availability of land, water and energy that is limited, hence, scarce. For example, land meant for food production can sometimes be lost to urbanization, desertification or soil erosion which is sometimes due to unsustainable agricultural practices being operated.

Ordinarily in any country, the consumers of food outnumber that of producers hence, the need for efficient and effective distribution network to ensure that food is being evenly distributed.

Food distribution involves the storage, processing, transport, packaging, and marketing of food. Noteworthy is it to state that presence or absence of food-chain infrastructure and storage technologies on farms influences the amount of food wasted in the distribution process because inadequate infrastructure with storage facilities can affect the amount of food wasted considering the perishability status of the food in consideration. Poor transport infrastructure system can also increase the price of supplying food, water and fertilizers as well as the price of moving food to national and global markets. Around the world, few individuals or households are continuously self-reliant for food. This creates the need for a bartering, exchange, or cash economy to acquire food. An efficient and effective exchange system must be in place for the trading systems and market institutions involved in exchange of food to be operational.

Secondly, Food Access encompasses the economic and physical access to food. Improving access requires better market access for smallholder farmers allowing them to generate more income from cash crops, livestock products and other enterprises.

Food Access entails the economic and physical access to food. it also refers to the affordability and allocation of food. The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights noted that the causes of hunger and malnutrition are often not a scarcity of food but an inability to access available food, usually due to poverty. Access to food depends on whether the household has enough income to purchase food at prevailing prices or has sufficient land and other resources to grow its own food. Households with enough resources can overcome unstable harvests and local food shortages and maintain their access to food.

There are however two distinct types of access to food: direct access, in which a household produces food using human and material resources available to them. Usually this direct access is obtainable when the subsistence system of farming is being operated. So having direct access to food is when a smallholder farmer engages in farming activities for the purpose of feeding his farming and selling the surplus farm produce in the open market. Secondly, we have economic access, in which a household purchases food produced elsewhere. Physical location sometimes can affect this type of access to food. Families living in the urban area of a country will be said to have economic access to food because they would be using the economic resources at their disposal to obtain the food needed for them to feed.

Thirdly. Food Utilization is about how the body uses the various nutrients in food. A person’s health, feeding practices, food preparation, diversity of their diet and intra-household distribution of food all affect a person’s nutrition status. Improving food utilization requires improving nutrition and food safety, increasing diversity in diets, reducing post-harvest losses and adding value to food.

Food Utilization also refers to the metabolism of food by individuals. Once food is obtained by a household, a variety of factors affect the quantity and quality of food that reaches members of the household. In order to achieve food security, the food ingested must be safe and must be enough to meet the physiological requirements of each individual. Food Utilization considers what

Food must be safe because it affects how the body uses the various nutrients in the food which can be affected by the preparation, processing, and cooking of food in the community and household. Nutritional values of the household determine food choice, and whether food meets cultural preferences is important to utilization in terms of psychological and social well-being. Access to healthcare is another determinant of food utilization, since the health of individuals controls how the food is metabolized. For example, intestinal parasites can take nutrients from the body and decrease food utilization. Sanitation can also decrease the occurrence and spread of diseases that can affect food utilization. Education about nutrition and food preparation can affect food utilization and improve this pillar of food security.

Lastly, we have Food stability which refers to the ability to obtain food over time i.e. being able to have sufficient food at all times. Food insecurity can be transitory, seasonal, or chronic. In transitory food insecurity, food may be unavailable during certain periods of time due to events described as the Act of God. Such events include natural disasters, drought or even unpredictable weather condition. Civil conflicts can also decrease access to food. Instability in markets resulting in food-price spikes can cause transitory food insecurity. Other factors that can temporarily cause food insecurity are loss of employment or productivity, which can be caused by illness. Seasonal food insecurity can result from the regular pattern of growing seasons in food production.

Chronic (or permanent) food insecurity is defined as the long-term, persistent lack of adequate food. In this case, households are constantly at risk of being unable to acquire food to meet the needs of all members. Chronic and transitory food insecurity are linked, since the re-occurrence of transitory food security can make households more vulnerable to chronic food insecurity. When the prices of foods are inflated i.e. an instance of too much money pursing too few goods, the poor are usually the victims in this season. For example, people in Africa spend nearly 70-85% of their income on food while the poor in the US spend just 15-25% of their income on food.

CHALLENGES IMPEDING THE ACHIEVEMENT OF FOOD SECURITY.

Inability to achieve the availability, access, utilization and stability of food can be due to several reasons which are not limited to the following.

1.      Unsustainable Farming Systems: In Africa, 90% of small-holder farmers engage in activities that are unsustainable. In our latter blog, Unsustainable farming systems will be dealt with and how we can have sustainable farming systems will be treated and thus elaborated upon.

2.      Inaccessibility to Best Agronomic and Resilient Agricultural Practices:

3.      Poor food transport infrastructure and storage technologies

4.      Non-existent exchange systems for food produced.

5.      Inflation caused by economic factors.

ACHIEVING FOOD SECURITY IN AFRICA; THE POSSIBILITY.

Food indeed is a fundamental human right that everyone is to have access to though at a cost and just as the former secretary of states to the US, Mrs. Hilary Clinton opined Food security is the issue of our time and we have to jointly work towards achieving it.

Economic growth is only sustainable if all countries have food security. Without country-owned and country-driven food security strategies, there will be obstacles and additional costs to global, regional, and country-level economic growth.