The Chief Executive Officer of National Food Buffer Stock Company (NAFCO), Hanan Abdul-Wahab, has said that any meaningful post-COVID-19 recovery measures by African governments must include investment in agriculture to make the continent food secure.
He, therefore, urged the governments to scale up food production strategies in their respective countries to guarantee food security at all times.
Speaking on “Promoting food security and sustainability in Africa” at the just-ended 11th ALM Persons of the Year Award Investiture in the Mauritius capital, Port Louis, Mr Abdul-Wahab said urgent and sustained humanitarian action was needed to prevent the risk of famine in areas already on the brink of starvation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused catastrophic impact on lives around the world, as well as affected households’ food security.
According to the UN Global Humanitarian Overview, the rise in hunger shows no signs of abating. By the end of 2020, the number of acutely food insecure people increased to 270 million due to the pandemic, representing an 82 per cent rise compared to the number of acutely food insecure people pre-COVID-19.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as “the right of all persons to have adequate physical, economical and safe access to meet their nutritional needs at all times, as well as choose their food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
The right to food has been discussed in several international conferences since 1948.
In the Rome Declaration on Global Food Security (1996), all countries except Australia and the US, agreed that food was a fundamental human right.
According to Mr Abdul-Wahab, even though population growth, increase in demand for food, rising food prices, disappearance of plant species, food losses, scarcity of water and food wastage threatened food security, the new trend of dwindling budgetary support for agriculture further worsened the situation.
“On our continent alone, 46 million of our people are experiencing hunger in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and if we so desire to change the narrative, we must demonstrate that commitment with the allocation of more funds for the production of food to feed our people”, he told the gathering of African business and political leaders.
In 2003, the heads of state and government of the African Union recognised that greater public spending on agriculture was needed to eradicate hunger and poverty across the continent, prompting them to make a political commitment – the Maputo Declaration – to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budget to food and agriculture under a Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
However, after 20 years, many countries are yet to abide by that objective.
Mr Abdul-Wahab said despite the seeming threats, African leaders had no choice but to remain focused and committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the UN to be achieved by 2030, especially Goal Two, which is: Achieving food security and improved nutrition to end hunger and promote sustainable agriculture.
Speaking on the theme: “ Re-imagining opportunities in a turbulent time”, the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, re-echoed the need for governments to prioritise human capital development.
The event was organised by a London-based African Leadership Organisation, publishers of the African Leadership Magazine, and brought together leaders of business and politics to deliberate on challenges facing the continent.
The Group Managing Editor of the African Leadership Magazine, Kingsley Okeke, called for unity and a common front for the accelerated development of the continent.