Food prices remain high and food crises exist in Horn and Sahel. Need to scale up regional co-ordination on early warning, emergency food reserves and safety nets, and address wider underlying causes of food insecurity.
Africa: African leaders have given increased priority to food security, setting an objective of reducing by half the number of undernourished people in Africa by 2015 and eradicating hunger and malnutrition. They have committed to supporting agricultural development (see Topic 2) and made specific commitments at AU Summits to:
The November 2011 G-20 Summit endorsed an Action Plan on food security and price volatility, prioritising: strengthening long term productivity, resilience and sustainability; launching a global Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to increase the transparency of market information and anticipate the effect of market risks; developing tools to mitigate risks and cope with the consequences of price volatility; and improving the functioning and transparency of agricultural financial markets, plus the exemption of food purchased for humanitarian purposes by the World Food Program from export restrictions or extraordinary taxes. Food security issues will also be discussed at the May 2012 G-8 Summit.
What has been done to deliver on these commitments?
Africa: Some countries possess national food security stocks or strategic grain reserves, food, cash or employment-based safety nets, and early warning systems. The AU has developed a draft long-term strategy to address food and nutrition crises, putting CAADP at the centre of achieving long term food security. It has also established a roadmap to integrate risk management into CAADP national and regional investment plans. The AU is developing, in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP) the pan-African Risk Capacity Project to cope with extreme weather conditions. At the regional level, ECOWAS and its member countries have developed a pilot project for a regional emergency humanitarian food reserve system to complement existing national food reserves. ECOWAS has defined principles to guide the regional reserves. In response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa the AU ‘pledging conference’ in August 2011 mobilised US$380 million in cash and kind.
What results have been achieved?
Africa has remained a net importer of food and countries dependent on imports of major food staples have been vulnerable to global food price hikes and volatility. Increasing climate variability (see Topic 6) is exacerbating national food insecurity and countries experiencing combined shocks of drought and high prices in 2011 have been hit particularly hard. Child malnutrition levels exceed 40% in 19 African countries, and malnutrition rates and associated indicators have been falling only modestly: 34% of Africa’s children were stunted in 2008, down slightly from 38% in 1990.
The IFPRI Global Hunger Index (GHI) showed some progress in reducing hunger in most African countries between 1990 and 2007. However, FAO figures show a sharp increase in malnourishment from 219 million in 2007 to 239 million in 2008 (in contrast to Asia) as a result of food price hikes. The best available estimates were that the total rose to over 250 million in 2009 and remained at 239 million in 2010, though these figures may be subject to further revision. No estimates are available for 2011. However, it is clear that persistent malnutrition, exacerbated by food price hikes is set to further undermine progress made by Africa in reducing poverty (see Box 1 in Appendices).
In the Horn of Africa the severest drought in 60 years affected more than 13 million people in 2011 and four million people continue to need emergency assistance. Regional imbalances persist: in late 2001 Southern Africa reported good rainfall and food surpluses, whilst Sahelian countries faced severe food and nutrition crises. Africa overall will be unable to meet the MDG 1 target (halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015) based on current trends.
Food prices remain high, influenced by factors ranging from oil prices and higher input costs, to stock levels, climate variability and increased biofuels production. Another spike in 2011 in international food prices, the second in three years, is raising concerns of a repeat of the 2008 food price crisis and its consequences for the poor. The outlook for the next decade points to continued high prices and volatility. Containing excessive volatility, enhancing the resilience of poor populations to such fluctuations, addressing bottlenecks such as infrastructure, increasing productivity and scaling up safety nets (see Agriculture and Infrastructure) - in light of high population growth rates in the region will be key challenges.
What are the future priority actions?
(in addition to those in the Agriculture topic)