What you need to know:
- In Eastern Africa, undernutrition is reported to be 28.1 per cent, which places it second from the bottom in Africa after Central Africa at 31.8 percent.
- Food production, nutrition and the environment are all connected, and must be addressed together through well-coordinated approaches.
As the global community marks this year’s World Food Day on October 16, where does Eastern Africa stand in respect of food and nutrition security, which is a declared target? It is still a long way off.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition (SOFI) report indicates that world hunger increased in 2020, with Covid-19 playing a significant role. It states that hunger affects 21 per cent of the population in Africa. In Eastern Africa, undernutrition is reported to be 28.1 per cent, which places it second from the bottom in Africa after Central Africa at 31.8 percent.
Some of the main drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition in Eastern Africa include conflict, extreme climate variability, economic slowdown, and recent disasters such the desert locust invasion in 2019/2020. Unfortunately, disasters continue to increase in both frequency and intensity.
So, what should East African countries do to get back on track on the journey to food and nutrition security? A food systems approach. The 2021 World Food Day theme, “Our actions are our future: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life,” offers some ideas. It underpins the fact that food production, nutrition and the environment are all connected, and must be addressed together through well-coordinated approaches.
Food supply chains
A food systems approach encompasses the entire range of actors and their interlinked value-adding activities in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products. This approach is essential to better identify entry points for interventions to address issues that disrupt food production and distribution.
Coherence in the formulation and implementation of policies and investments among food, health, social protection and environmental systems is key. Fortunately, Eastern Africa nations seeking to implement such have a partner in the African Development Bank.
The bank’s “Feed Africa” strategy seeks to support the transformation of the continent’s agriculture into a competitive and inclusive agribusiness sector that creates wealth and improves lives. The strategy has four goals: contribute to the end of poverty; end hunger and malnutrition; make Africa a net food exporter; and move Africa to the top of export-orientated value chains where it has comparative advantage.
Depending on the context of the concerned country, there are various pathways to follow towards food systems transformation: integrating humanitarian, development and peace-building policies in conflict-affected areas; scaling up climate resilience across food systems; strengthening resilience of the most vulnerable; intervening along the food supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods; tackling poverty and structural inequalities, ensuring interventions are pro-poor and inclusive; and strengthening food environments and changing consumer behaviour to promote dietary patterns with positive impacts on human health and the environment. These actions must be pursued deliberately and not through mere rhetoric.
The writer is a chief financial economist and coordinator of the ENABLE Youth programme at the African Development Bank; [email protected]