Can Maputo declaration save Africa from classification as a hungry people, malnourished region and scale up food security ambitions, asked REMMY NWEKE in this report.
The latest United Nations global report says 815 million are hungry people and ranked Africa second with 243m victims out of 1.216 billion population of the continent as at December 2016 by the World Bank. And the next phase is for the victims to delve into malnutrition.
NaijaAgroNet reports that this is in spite of Africa being ranked the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent, spanning to about 30.3 million kilometres in landmass, including adjacent islands, covering some 6 per cent of earth's total surface area and 20.4 per cent of its total land area. Africa also ranks fifth among continents by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worth $2,190 billion, according to the online open sourced encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
However, UN’s latest hunger and food security key numbers made available to NaijaAgroNet, saw Asia continent with 520 million, that is, over 100 per cent of African quota; whereas the top three continents in the hungriest people in the world included Latin America and the Caribbean with 42 million. Shared in percentage, NaijaAgroNet gathered showed that Asia has 11.7 per cent; Africa has 20 per cent with eastern Africa alone scored 33.9 per cent, while Latin America and the Caribbean got 6.6 per cent.
This was the first time that United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO), joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) in preparing ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report. This change reflects the harmonization of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda's broader view on hunger and all forms of malnutrition.
Thus, NaijaAgroNet noted that the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, established by the General Assembly, is lending focus to this effort by motivating governments to set goals and invest in measures to address the multiple dimensions of malnutrition, facing the world today. So, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 was re-geared for the SDG era and includes enhanced metrics for quantifying and assessing hunger, including two indicators on food insecurity and six indicators on nutrition.
Economic sense of zero tolerance for food loss, waste:
Speaking at the sideline of the recently held 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr. José Graziano da Silva, renewed calls with focus on tackling food loss and waste as a pathway to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger, declaring that "Zero tolerance for food loss and waste makes economic sense.” Noting recent report which indicated that every $1 invested in food loss and food waste policies bring $14 in return, and stressed that "Investing in measures to prevent food loss and food waste also means making investments in pro-poor policies as it promotes sustainable food systems for a zero hunger world."
According to him, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year, pointing out that this loss and waste occur throughout the supply chain, from farm to fork, insisting that beyond food, it represents a total waste of labour, water, energy, land and other inputs, lamenting “If food loss and waste were a country, it would rank as the third highest national emitter of greenhouse gases.”
Graziano was joined by Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, Josefa Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union as well as representatives of the governments of Germany, the Netherlands and Angola in calling for greater cooperation by governments, business, development partners, farmers groups and others to address the problem.
Food technologists develop tools to prevent loss, waste
Of late, NaijaAgroNet reported that food technologists at FAO revealed they have developed tools and methodologies for identifying losses, their causes and potential solutions along the entire food value chain, from production, storage and processing to distribution and consumption. Obviously reacting to the latest UN disclosure that some 815 million hungry people are in the world, the majority lives in rural areas of developing countries and are family farmers, pastoralists or fishers, these experts cited South-East Asia, for example, noting that fruit and vegetable producers found that around 20 per cent of tomatoes were damaged during transportation because of the way they were packed in bulk.
Confirming this, DG, FAO, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, said the initiatives will improve packaging practices, with participation of producers and other stakeholders, resulting in an impressive 90 per cent reduction of these losses, recalling that in 2013, FAO launched a global initiative on food loss and waste called Save Food.
The platform, NaijaAgroNet gathered, includes a network of over 500 partners from international organizations, the private sector, civil society and others with the objective of promoting awareness and the exchange of ideas and best practices on preventing food waste and loss.
FAO also said, it has produced data and information so that decision-makers could better understand where and how food losses and waste occur, and the agency is working with partners to measure the impact of food loss and waste reductions on food security and nutrition.
A nation undermining her children’s development:
Then long after, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) exposed Nigerian government over alleged putting her children at risk of under-development, both physically and mentally, because critical national policies were not adequately provided to entrench foundation for their growth. Maintaining that brain grows rapidly; thus providing good nutrition, loving care and appropriately play and provide solid foundations for a child’s learning could eventually contribution to economic and social growth.
In its Early Moments Matter for Every Child, UNICEF outlined three policies that could give parents the time and resources needed to support their young children’s healthy development, including “two years of free pre-primary education; six months of paid maternity leave; and four weeks of paid paternity leave.” Decrying that Nigeria currently has just three months of paid maternity leave, only one year of free pre-primary education and no paternity leave at all, with only about one in every 10 pre-primary children are enrolled in early education activities.
Also, NaijaAgroNet reports that according to a medical journal, The Lancet, Nigeria ranks among the 10 countries with the largest number of children at risk of poor development. Whereas the 2016 national survey indicated that 31 per cent of children under the age of five were moderately or severely underweight in Nigeria. Insisting, “Stunting as a result of malnutrition can cause irreversible physical and mental retardation. Though, the exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life has clearly been shown to improve physical and mental development, the same survey revealed that only 24 per cent of Nigerian children are exclusively breastfed for six months. Paid maternity leave will help to increase the number of children exclusively breastfed.
As said by Mohamed Fall, the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, “What we call Early Childhood Development, includes physical and cognitive support, and has a strategic place in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Investing in Early Childhood Development including services to support caregivers, quality pre-primary education and good nutrition will help to secure healthy and productive future generations in Nigeria.”
Yes, early childhood development matters:
In addition, he said that by supporting exclusive breastfeeding, having Early Childhood Development policies in place will help to improve the overall health and nutrition of a child, enable parents and caregivers to be more responsive to children’s needs and provide greater safety and security. It will also provide improved early learning.
He asserted that ‘With 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurring before the age of five, early childhood experiences can have a profound impact on a child’s development and can ultimately impact a country’s growth.”
The import of the foregoing is that if Nigeria could undermine the growth of her younger generation and due to lack of requisite policies as claimed by UNICEF, why should Africa not have a set of hungry people, even to the tune of 243m. This is because lots of people and Africans precisely look up to Nigeria as a ‘big brother’ who should show leadership.
Maputo declaration, nutrition and food security:
Of course, showing leadership is not all political, but on the practical terms, may be by domesticating the African Union 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security (Assembly/AU/Decl. 7(II)), which stressed that 10 per cent of national budget allocation should go to agriculture development, invariably to the letter in the next five years, that is till 2008.
In September 2016, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) declared that the countries which paid intense attention to farmers and food production in the past ten years achieved the most successful development in African history.
According to AGRA President, Agnes Kalibata, “The countries that made the biggest investments in agriculture were rewarded with sizeable jumps in both farm productivity and overall economic performance,” and noted that agriculture had its biggest impact in countries that embraced the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which called for African governments to allocate 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture with a view to gain six percent annual growth in the sector.
AGRA report also noted that even if they didn’t hit the 10 per cent targets, early adopters of the CAADP have seen agricultural productivity rise by 5.9 to 6.7 per cent per year, thereby, boosting a 4.3 per cent average annual increase in overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and listed CAADP adopters to include Nigeria, Benin, Burundi, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Togo and attributed their posting of higher agriculture productivity and stronger GDP growth with declines in malnutrition compared to countries that have not adopted the initiative.
Thus, the report urged African leaders and governments for higher investment in agricultural research in the wake of climate change and increased support for youths to take up farming.
Its unthinkable that a continent with the landmass that Africa has should be graded among the hungriest people on earth. Efforts should be made to reverse trend. If technology development could be seen as slow and knowhow, do we need also tally behind on cultivating our natural resources, agriculture inclusive.
Therefore, this is a clarion call on the Nigerian government to show leadership, after all, an adage says ‘charity begins at home’ and to whom much is given, much is expected, especially on the UNICEF report, otherwise the continent’s future leaders may be stunted children which will boomerang on respective member nations.... Linking agrobiz, sustainable environs, people & technology
Pix: Moussa Faki, AUC chairperson and Audu Ogbe, Nigerian Minister of Agriculture