Africa is not spending enough on food

This piece was posted by Hilde Faugli, Communications Intern at Find Your Feet. 

70 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income

While most talk about Africa these days centers on the World Cup in South Africa, sobering facts about the continent’s food situation have been presented in an International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) paper entitled Public Spending for Agriculture in Africa: Trends and Composition. According to the paper insufficient spending on agriculture Africa means that the continent is “now facing the same type of long-term food deficit problem that India faced in the early 1960s.

70 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income. Spending money on food production is therefore critical. Regrettably, only eight African countries have reached the target adopted by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in 2003. Back then, the continent committed to allocating 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture. The countries to reach the 10 percent target are Niger, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

 As a result of the inadequate investment in the African agriculture sector, the continent is vulnerable to frequent food crises and countries are dependent on emergency food aid and food imports. The paper argues that governments and donors in the past have devoted more resources to emergency aid than to long-term agricultural development, which further undermines the countries’ ability to generate economic and agricultural growth. “Consequently, poverty and hunger have persisted and threaten the likelihood that some countries will meet the MDGs”.  The authors recommend increased investment in what they call the prime movers – human capital, technology and institutional innovations – to increase farm production and accelerate agricultural growth. As climate change is likely to have an adverse effect on the continents food production, increased government spending will probably prove even more important in the future.

Meanwhile, donor funding for agriculture in Africa has dropped dramatically – from 15 percent in the 1980s to 4 percent in 2006- but the amount countries allocate from aid to food production also varies quite considerably. In 2007 Botswana and Nigeria spent less than 1 percent of all aid received on agriculture while Burkina Faso in 2006 spent 8 percent of its total aid on agriculture.

To be able to improve their food deficit, and stand strong against climate change, African countries will need to spend more of their budgets on developing their agricultural sector. However, just as important is that the agriculture is developed in a sustainable manner. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), increasing use of chemical fertilizers and intense industrialized agriculture are, by some actors, seen as the solution to the food crisis.  This approach to agriculture brings with it not only possible health risks, it is also likely to lead to a loss of biological biodiversity.

It is important to remember that this type of agriculture is not the only way to go. In Malawi, a return to age-old, chemical-free farming techniques is improving crop harvests for many poor farmers. Agriculture is the life blood of many small communities, and should be supported accordingly. The conservation of biological diversity that sustains agriculture is essential, and should be put at the heart of any national or local strategies to improve food security. Read more about Find Your Feet’s approach to agriculture.

Download the paper Public Spending for Agriculture in Africa: Trends and Composition.

And if you’d like to read about a global campaign to promote More and Better aid to agriculture, click here.

Sustainable agriculture and conservation of biodiversity will prove important in improving food production in Africa.


One Comment

  1. Posted July 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    This is very good information. But the question still is, how can the rest of the world help them out? you mentioned that there has not been good decision about investing the money they have. Is it that they need better education? what is causing this?

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