A. State of the food security problem

While remarkable progress has been made in some developing countries in reducing chronic hunger and abject poverty, especially in East and South Asia, the situation has deteriorated in Africa. In sharp contrast with Africa, the incidence of abject poverty is likely to have been substantially reduced in East and South Asia. The achievements of China and, to some extent, India are very impressive. The two governments have succeeded in translating growth into poverty alleviation, thereby also reducing the number of hungry people. In China, a doubling of income in rural areas in the 1980s pulled millions of rural households out of abject poverty. In India, anti-poverty programmes provided income-earning opportunities.
Towards the end of the 1980s, 40 out of 68 low-income, food-deficit countries failed to provide enough food to meet average nutritional requirements. Twenty-nine of them were in Africa, their people perennially condemned to hunger by inadequate incomes. The plight of starving people in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa is all too familiar, especially in Ethiopia, Somalia, the Sudan, Angola, Mozambique and Liberia. Inasmuch as food security is not just a supply issue, but also a function of income and purchasing power, the results of an assessment of the changes in per capita income during the same period were equally disquieting. According to the United Nations estimates, between 1981 and 1990, real GDP per person in Africa recorded a negative average annual growth of 1.3 per cent.

It is difficult to know exactly how many people are food insecure in Africa due to the dearth of information on food consumption and variations in the definitions and assumptions used. This causes the estimates of the world insecure people to vary from about 300 million to one billion in 1986 (FAO, 1988).
According to (World Bank, 1986), 340 million people in developing countries in 1980 did not have enough income for a minimum calorie diet that would prevent serious health risk and 730 million did not have enough income for a diet that is required for an active life. Africa accounted for half of the population of those people.

Essentially, the incidence of food insecurity is high in sub-Saharan Africa. An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study (Broce and Oram, 1991) on location of food energy deficient popula-tion by agro-ecological zone found that the incidence of food energy is 23 per cent in Central America, 35 per cent in Asia and 38 per cent in SSA. The largest number of poor in sub-Saharan Africa is located in arid zones where the incidence of poverty is also the highest.

Depending on agro-ecological characteristics, access to land, policies, infrastructures and state of development of the economy, food insecure people can be of different socio economic and demographic groups. Nevertheless, the African hungry have a common characteristic and that is poverty. The poor face the most severe difficulties in relation to the production of food for home consumption and to access to marketed food, which make them the most vulnerable to the food security crisis.

B. Inadequate agricultural food performance and increasing food demand
as constraints to improved food security

(a) Past trends

The past trends by broad agro-climatic zones and by categories of commodities show that the food situation has been variable between cereals, root crops, fisheries and livestock. Growth of the total cereal for all Multinational Programming and Operational Centres (MULPOCs) as a group has been very variable with the highest rate (2 per cent per year) registered in 1986-1992 and the lowest (0.07 per cent per year) in 1961-1992 (0.07 per cent per year). The best performance attained in roots and tubers subsectors was in 1986-1992 (3.5 per cent per year).

At the subregional level, cereal production in the highlands increased during the past three decades and growth was very significant for maize in Southern Africa. Technologies for the use of hybrid varieties and fertilizer were promoted by policies and institutional changes in Southern Africa. The results were not good in West and Central Africa.

The production of tree/cash crop Tree/cash crops can serve as support for food crop development.
in the past was insignificant in all Africa. Coffee production rose slightly by 1.9 per cent in 1992 due to the recovery in Côte d'Ivoire but still fell some 13 per cent below the average for 1988/90 because production in both Ethiopia and Kenya, the largest producers of arabica, remained the same. Cocoa production in Africa in 1993 was 7.8 per cent less than the previous year. Production fell in all the main cocoa-producing countries of Cameroon, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire.

The past performance of livestock as a food producer was poor. Meat and milk growth generally fall below the recommended average rate of 4 per cent per year needed to feed African population. The meat self-sufficiency ratio dropped to 91.4 per cent in 1994 from its already low level of 94.7 per cent in 1993. At the subregional level, this indicator was unsatisfactory and tended to stagnate in every subregion except in Eastern and Southern Africa where it decreased by 1.3 per cent because of carry- over effects of the drought that prevailed there. The poor domestic production resulted in heavy imports of animal products whose price is above the reach of the vulnerable groups. Import of milk and eggs accounted for more than 60 per cent of deficit associated with animal trade.

As far as the fishery sector is concerned, the total production (i.e., inland and marine fisheries) increased by about 29 per cent between 1985 and 1991. Such production seems to have stabilized by 1994 at 4.6 million metric tons with 40 per cent ascribed to inland waters. In 1992, the West African coast accounted for about 80 per cent of the total African marine catches in African waters. The global trade balance of the continent is said to be positive but very heterogeneous when analyzed at the subregional levels. In 1991, trade balance was positive in North Africa, West Africa and Eastern Africa and negative in the other subregions of Central and Southern Africa. Aquaculture development had a very limited success in Africa as a the continent accounts for only 0.6 per cent of world production.

Total consumption of basic cereals in Africa (all MULPOCs) expanded between 1984-1986 and 1986-1989 by 9 per cent, at an annual growth rate of 1.8 per cent while the consumption of roots and tubers and meat decreased. Among subregions, the Lusaka- and Niamey-based MULPOCs accounted for more than half of the total cereal increase in all MULPOCs. The consumption of millet, sorghum, roots and tubers has been on decline. The fact that the consumption of cereal increased in general is also an indication that Africa's staple food diet has been changing due to rapid urbanization, food imports, particularly food grains (i.e., wheat and rice) and increased flow of food aid. This increase has been particularly important in Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria in the Niamey-based MULPOC subregion.

Growth of food consumption has been influenced mainly by population growth which is estimated at 3.05 per cent per year between 1985 and 1990 for all MULPOCs. During the same period, West Africa (Niamey MULPOC) and Eastern and Southern Africa (Lusaka MULPOC) recorded the highest annual population growth rate of 3.5 per cent in total and 6 per cent annual in the urban areas.

(b) Outlook

Food projection to the year 2000 for sub-Saharan Africa shows that the projected output of 110 million metric tons of basic food staples would fall short of the projected demand by about 50 million metric tons (table 1). All three subregions are projected to be in a food deficit situation in the year 2000, with West Africa accounting for the bulk of this deficit (67 per cent) and Central Africa for the smallest share (10.4 per cent). The food situation in sub-Saharan Africa is thus expected to show increasing deterioration.

It can be concluded that agricultural food production performance has been inadequate with poor food self-sufficiency ratio that led to heavy imports of food items. Such imports in turn depressed domestic production through various deleterious effects. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, 1987), sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where per caput food production has not stopped declining over the past three decades.

Other factors that depressed Africa's food production performance include the low level of input use, poor mechanization, weak research base, lack of incentives to producers, poor infrastructure and poor access to markets. For example, fertilizer use on food crops is about 5 kg/ha compared with an average of 30 kg/ha for export crops (FAO, 1988). Agricultural research capability is inadequate and has often been confined to research stations with little or no on-farm experimentation or to cash crops. There is dearth of skilled researchers as the brain-drain resulting in unsatisfactory work and social conditions prevail at home. In Africa, yield/ha has barely increased since 1960. Of the total 1.6 per cent increase in food production, yield increased only by 0.1 per cent. This means that the overall food production growth in Africa has been achieved mostly through expansion of area under cultivation. In other words, there has not been a signifi-cant technological change in African agriculture. In addition to the increasing poverty partially engendered by the deteriorating food security, Africa's economic crisis has also been characterized by the disintegration of the productive and infrastructural facilities. Apart from the decline of food and agriculture, most African industries including agro-industries have also been increasingly operating much below their installed capa-cities and genuine, cottage agro-industries have been non-existent. The physical infrastructure built during the immediate post-independence era has, to a very large extent, deteriorated due to poor maintenance and lack of renovation while social services and welfare, especially education, public health and sanitation, housing, etc., have rapidly deteriorated and continue to decay. The increasing poverty has contributed more severely to the destruction of the environment. As the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is implemented successfully, food aid may be reduced as food surpluses in developed countries diminish. Perhaps most of the blame should go to the inappropriateness and lack of implementa-tion of policies recommended in the past.

C. Past policy pronouncements

Against the above background, many African countries and their people have not been idle in the face of these adverse conditions, especially with regard to food security. During the past few years, there has been growing awareness among these countries that a major imperative for agricultural and rural development is the need for appropriate national and international policies that will foster economic growth. Per contra, inappropriate national and international policies have been at the root of the failure of many countries to make progress. Policies followed over the last decades have not brought about the full benefits expected at independence. The region is still economically and technologically dependent. This better understanding of what was wrong with past policies has led many African Governments to adopt major action-oriented socio-economic development strategies, introducing economic policy reforms and measures to remedy the situation.

Africa still remains largely food insecure despite the fact that the action needed to reverse the situa-tion has been delineated by a number of conferences and resolution or publications. Of these are OAU's Lagos Plan of Action (1980), the Harare Declaration of African Ministers of Agriculture, FAO's African Agriculture: The Next 25 Years (1986), Africa's Priority Programme for Economic Recovery, 1986-1990 (APPER) in 1985, the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Develop-ment, 1986-1990 (UN-PAAERD) in 1986, the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF) of 1991, the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Pro-grammes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation (AAF-SAP), the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development and Agenda 21, the International Conference on Nutrition (1993) and the World Summit for Children. The recent International Conference on Population and Development, FAO's upcoming Fiftieth Anniversary Conference, the Common African Agricultural Programme (CAAP), the New Agenda for World Food and Agricultural Development recently submitted by the new FAO Director-General to and approved by the special session of the FAO Council, etc., will add more building blocks to the development of a common vision for Africa's environmentally sustainable food and agriculture development and a consensus for action to bring about such a vision.

It is noted that most of the prescriptions or strategies needed to move Africa from chronic food crisis to accelerated and sustained agricultural food production growth and food security improvement are already laid down in the above documents. For example, some of the most important objectives found in the Lagos Plan of Action are concerned with the imperative need to bring about improvement in the food situation and to lay the foundations for the achievement of self-sufficiency in cereals, livestock and fish products. For the Plan, priority action should be geared towards securing a substantial reduction in food wastage, achieving a large and sustained increase in production of food and attaining a markedly higher degree of food security. The Plan also recognizes that the collective self-reliance requires subregional food security arrangements, that food production must take into consideration the problem of transportation and distribution of farm pro-ducts at the consumer's level, that a realistic agrarian reform programme and improved organization of agri-culture be given priority in order to increase agricultural production and productivity. The Plan further underscores the pivotal role of science and technology in the development of agriculture and that of research and consolidated African cooperation as crucial instruments for the transformation of the agriculture sector.

Interestingly, each of the underlying objectives is supported by clearly identified and well-defined prescriptions or strategies. The trouble is that these prescriptions are rarely or never used. This is seen as the single most important constraint preventing agricultural food production from growing adequately and from helping to improve the food security situation.

Another example of prescriptions that fail to achieve their goal is found in UN-PAAERD. The priority programme puts considerable emphasis on the food and agriculture sector; seeks to generate internal forces for its growth and development; and lays down immediate and clearly defined medium-term measures to combat food insecurity. The Programme opts, among other things, for a substantial raising of investment in agriculture, development of mechanization, increased use of fertilizers and modern processing machinery, improved distribution and marketing systems and remunerative producer's price policies. It also accords special attention to the need to develop or rehabilitate sectors in support of agriculture such as agro-related industries, transport and communications, trade and finance. Further, UN-PAAERD was a novel contract between Africa and the international community, embodying mutually reinforcing commitments. With the unanimous adoption of UN-PAAERD by the United Nations General Assembly, hope was held that this contract would usher in a new era of international cooperation between the two parties. Results after five years of programme implementation, however, fell far below expectations with Africa's socio-economic conditions still remaining precarious. This is confirmed by a United Nations report (United Nations, 1991) United Nations, 1991. Report of the Ad hoc Committee of the Whole of the General Assembly on the review and appraisal of the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development, 1986-1990. Forty- sixth session. A/46/41. New York.
which observed that the results were inadequate as only 2 per cent per year of agricultural output growth was obtained instead of the 4 per cent recommended by the World Bank (1989). The report also indicates that the reasons for the poor results include inadequate technical know-how, inefficient research and extension, inadequate access to inputs, services and markets. Let us note that these constraints could have been eased up had the prescriptions of the Lagos Plan of Action been translated into actions.

There is no doubt that the constraints listed by the above report can be extended by many other impediments mentioned earlier and among which are the weak inadequate infrastructure, poor research and development, notorious neglect of the agricultural sector and poor development of its supportive sector. Above all, the fact remains that Africa would not have arrived at the present situation had the prescriptions of the Lagos Plan of Action and other past pronouncements been translated into action.

Overall, in spite of efforts by African institutions such as OAU and ECA to coordinate African posi- tions in global development issues, it is not African experts who occupy the centre-stage of policy making in many African countries. African Governments have largely failed to act on Africa-initiated programmes and plans. They have failed to act on the decisions reached at different levels of their own continental meet-ings, including summit conferences. The practice of policy reform, moreover, rarely conforms to neat academic theories. Political considerations and effective leadership that are often as important for success as are the right policy objectives and the sequence of reform are lacking. As a result, only a few govern-ments engage in public debate about development priorities with their own citizens and involve them in strategy-policy-praxis design and articulation.

The crisis in which Africa found itself called for an overwhelming sense of urgency to create lasting conditions for every man and woman in Africa to develop and have sustained physical and economic access at least to the minimum requirements in food. The pre-requisite for the creation of these conditions is that we do not continue to act as we have in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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