Why East Africa must accelerate the pursuit of food and nutrition security
- FAO 2021 State of Food and Nutrition Security (SOFI) report says world hunger increased in 2020, with COVID-19 playing an important role.
- The report says hunger affects 21 percent of the population in Africa.
- In East Africa in particular, undernutrition is estimated at 28.1 percent, placing it second among African regions after Central Africa with 31.8 percent.
As the global community celebrates World Food Day 2021 this year (October 16e), where East Africa stands in terms of food and nutrition security which is a declared target of Kenya included. The goal is still a long way off.
FAO 2021 State of Food and Nutrition Security (SOFI) report says world hunger increased in 2020, with COVID-19 playing an important role.
The report states that hunger affects 21 percent of the population in Africa. In East Africa in particular, undernutrition is estimated at 28.1 percent, placing it second among African regions after Central Africa with 31.8 percent.
Compared with 7.1 percent in North Africa, 10.1 percent in Southern Africa and 16.7 percent in West Africa, East Africa lags behind.
Some of the main drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition in East Africa in recent times include conflict, extreme climate variability, economic downturns and recent disasters such as the Desert Locust invasion in 2019-2020. .
Unfortunately, more and more disasters such as droughts and floods continue to increase in both frequency and intensity.
So, based on the state of food and nutrition security presented above, what should East African countries do to get back on the road to food and nutrition security?
A food systems approach
The theme for World Food Day 2021, “Our actions are our future: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, offers some ideas.
This underlies the fact that food production, nutrition and the environment are all linked and need to be addressed together through well-coordinated holistic approaches rather than addressing one aspect at a time. In other words, governments in East Africa must deliberately design and implement policies that take the “food systems approach”.
A food systems approach encompasses all of the actors and their interrelated value-added activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products that come from agriculture, forestry or fisheries, and parts of the larger economy, societal and natural environments in which they are integrated.
A food systems lens is essential to better identify entry points for interventions to address problems that disrupt food production and distribution.
Coherence in the formulation and implementation of policies and investments between food, health, social protection and environmental systems is essential.
Fortunately, East African countries seeking to implement concise policies and plausible actions on food and nutrition security have a partner in the African Development Bank, which runs an elaborate program to advocate for the same.
The AfDB’s “Feed Africa” strategy aims to support the transformation of African agriculture into a competitive and inclusive agro-industrial sector that creates wealth and improves lives.
The strategy has four specific objectives, namely: To contribute to the end of poverty; End hunger and malnutrition; Make Africa a net food exporter; and place Africa at the top of export-oriented value chains where it has a comparative advantage.
The various initiatives that the AfDB supports to achieve these goals relate to promoting greater adoption of new and innovative technologies to transform agriculture on the continent, inspiring and enabling young people to become more involved in agriculture and food companies, and the establishment of special food companies. -industrial processing areas.
It is important to note that these initiatives run alongside others that focus on building resilience to climate change and related disasters, promoting peace, creating market access, and building resilience to climate change and related disasters. trade promotion, among others.
Within these is the broader food systems approach that countries in the region can benefit from.
Depending on the context of the country concerned, there are different paths to follow for the transformation of food systems: integrating humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in areas affected by conflict; strengthen climate resilience in all food systems; strengthen the resilience of those most vulnerable to economic adversity; intervene along food supply chains to reduce the cost of nutritious foods; tackle poverty and structural inequalities, ensuring that interventions are pro-poor and inclusive; and strengthening food environments and changing consumer behavior to promote eating habits that have positive effects on human health and the environment.
These actions must be carried out deliberately and not by mere rhetoric.
Edson Mpyisi is Chief Financial Economist and ENABLE Youth Program Coordinator at the African Development Bank, East Africa Region.
E-mail: [email protected]