In the 12 months that African leaders vowed to improve food security on the continent, over 20 million more people have been pushed into severe hunger – equivalent to the entire population of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe combined.
“The hunger African people are facing today is a direct result of inadequate political choices. In a year marred with global inflation and climate disasters, African leaders should have stepped up to their responsibility”, said Fati N’Zi-Hassane, Oxfam in Africa Director.
Lingering underinvestment in agriculture is a key cause of the prevalent hunger experienced in 2022.
The majority of African governments (48 out of 54) reportedly spend an average of 3.8 percent of their budgets on agriculture -some spending as little as one per cent. Nearly three-quarters of these governments have reduced their share of the budget spent on agriculture since 2019, failing to honour their Malabo commitments to invest at least 10% of their budget on agriculture.
In contrast, African governments spent nearly double that budget (6.4%) on arms last year. Ongoing conflict, especially in Sahel and Central Africa, has continued to destroy farmland, displace people and fuel hunger.
“Even though African women spend about 60% of their time on agricultural activities, they continue to be subdued with unfavourable climatic conditions.” echoed Memory Kachambwa, the Executive Director, Africa Women’s development and Communications Network (FEMNET), “African women must be at the centre of climate adaptation because they are affected the most”
With no major government support to farmers (particularly women small scale farmers) or adequate climate adaptation, production of staple food like cereals dropped last year, despite the continent possessing nearly a quarter of the world’s agricultural land.
Today a fifth of the African population (278m) is undernourished, and 55 million of its children under the age of five are stunted due to severe malnutrition.
Worsening climate-fuelled droughts and floods, and a global rise in fuel and fertilizers prices, made food unobtainable for millions of people. In 2022 alone, food inflation rose by double digits in all but ten African countries.
“During the rainy season, we did not have money to pay for fertilizers. On top of that, our donkey died, so I had to cultivate our field with a daba [a simple ploughing tool]. The attic is empty,” says Sidbou, a female farmer in Burkina Faso.
As the 36th AU Summit – which focuses on intra-continental free trade this year– begins today, millions of smallholder farmers, who are vital food producers in the continent, cannot reach markets in neighbouring countries due to poor infrastructure and high intra-African tariffs. Many African nations find it cheaper to import food from outside the continent than from their next-door neighbour.
“As Africa’s Heads of State meet today at this year’s Summit, let this not be another year of broken promises. We urge them to honour commitments they collectively made almost 10 years ago by investing in agriculture and supporting smallholder farmers,” said N’Zi-Hassane.
“African leaders must also take serious steps to free up intra-continental trade to help local farmers. They must equally ramp up programmes to help people rebuild their lives and cope with recurrent climatic shocks,” added N’Zi-Hassane.