Tanzanians voted in a General Election last Sunday and elected John Pombe Magufuli as their fifth president. Among some few youth I talked to, they wanted a leader who would ensure they do not go to bed hungry. At least, there should be enough food for everyone.
It needs no rocket science to be told that food is very crucial thing for the electorate not only in the eastern parts of Africa but also the world over. This piece will not talk about elections in Tanzania but will rather dwell on food.
Africa is endowed with fertile land and plenty of food, but it is the same continent with the highest prevalence of hunger. The World Food Programme (WFP) in its latest report indicates that one person in four is suffering from malnutrition and 23 million school children are hungry in Africa.
This shocking statistic calls for intervention so as to break this cycle of hunger because if nothing is done, 40 million children will be hungry by 2020. It is easy to gather this data because children are the most visible victims of hunger and malnutrition. It affects their health, leading to low level of energy and reduces functions of their mental faculty. These kids are always stunted thereby affecting their overall development.
In June this year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sounded a warning that food projections in Africa this year are far below what was produced last year. This is due to irregular or seasonal rains and also extended dry spells in some parts of Africa.
Hunger and malnutrition are deeply tied to poverty. And hungry people cannot be productive, which goes a long way to affect the economy negatively.
Many a times in Africa, we wait for people to start dying of hunger before acting. We always ignore warnings of hunger and few countries have a nutrition action plan. It is not that the world does not produce enough food to feed everyone, it does.
I can confidently say that stopping hunger starts at the household level and with high level of political commitment.
Small-scale farmers grow most of the food we eat in Africa, so our governments should ensure these farmers access credit facilities and fertilisers at subsidised rates. This would go a long way in boosting production. Very few African countries are implementing the 2014 Malabo Declaration in which they set goals that included: targeting 10 per cent of public spending on agriculture, doubling farm productivity, growing farm economies by at least 6 per cent annually, and tripling inter-African trade in agricultural goods and services.
Apart from the set goals, I would go back to the gospel I have been preaching about food waste reduction. The food we lose annually through waste is increasingly becoming a concern in Africa where many of our children still sleep hungry. And 23 million is a big number that should send our governments back to the drawing board.
A lot of food in Africa is wasted on the farms during and after harvesting. These post-harvest losses account for 50 per cent of the produce leading to poor incomes and food insecurity in many households. The losses usually result from poor road network, lack of proper storage facilities, poor market information, destruction by pests and rodents plus lack of processing equipment.
Our governments could come in by improving road networks to ensure farmers get their products to the market faster, especially if they are perishable. Processing equipment and proper storage facilities could also be made available to farmers at subsidised costs if hunger and malnutrition are to be eliminated on the continent.
If there is goodwill, then hunger can completely be eradicated in Africa and we can comfortably feed the 23 million hungry children as well.
SOURCE: AFRICA REVIEW