By Warom Felix
Although there have been several strides made to improve on the living conditions of the citizens in the various African countries, it still remains the poorest continent.
Due to the inability by most governments to fund programs using their own money, the continent heavily relies on donor countries. This makes it difficult to improve on the poverty index; hence hunger remains a great challenge in many homes across Africa.
Now the President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, said: “Africa is a world leader in poverty and hunger due to a lack of committed leadership and rampant corruption.”
In his address at the House of Lords in London on Thursday, Nwanze, said although Africa is rich in minerals, gas and oil, and with abundant sunshine and fertile soil, 23 of the 25 poorest countries in the world are in Africa, and 389 million of its people live in extreme poverty.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has 25 per cent of the world’s arable land but generates only ten per cent of its agricultural output,” he said.
Winner of this year’s inaugural Africa Food Prize for his support of smallholder farming on the continent and outspokenness in reminding African leaders to stop talking about change and deliver it, Nwanze said that Africa’s leaders are failing the continent due to their lack of investment in smallholder agriculture.
Women selling food items in Arua town. Many families still cannot afford three meals a day. Photos by Felix
About 1.2 million Ugandans are experiencing hunger especially in Karamoja, West Nile, Acholi sub-regions where food has become a luxury. Many are not able to afford the recommended three meals a day.
They depend on a meal a day which largely remains insufficient for the livelihood.
With the majority of the African poor living in rural areas and earning an income from small family farms, investing in agriculture is essential for combating poverty, said Nwanze. 80 percent of Africa’s agricultural land is ten hectares or less, making smallholder farmers the largest private sector group in African agriculture.
African farmers lose 20 to 40 per cent of their harvest to pests, diseases and spoilage because of lack of infrastructure. These crops could provide minimum food requirements for at least 48 million people.
“The continent spends US$35 million on food imports a year. If this money was invested in developing smallholder farming and rural infrastructure, Africa could feed itself,” said Nwanze.
Although in Uganda, the Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) and National Crops Resources Research Institute (Nacrri) has made several strides in researching on how to have crops that are resistant to pests and diseases. This is an advantage to the farmers who have for long been battling with diseases which creates low yield and production.
Last year, the largest share of new IFAD financing went to sub-Saharan Africa and ongoing investments in Africa have more than doubled – from US$1.3 billion in 2009 to US$2.7 billion in 2015– benefitting some 75 million people.
A woman returns from her garden in Nebbi. Many small holder farmers here relies on hoes and small gardens for survival.
The future of food and agriculture lies in the hands of young people, Nwanze said. In the next 15 years, 330 million young people will enter the labour market in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in rural areas. Nwanze stressed that it is not only conflict that causes people to migrate, but also hunger, poverty and lack of opportunity. If people are not given the opportunity to earn a decent income and feed their families, they will move to urban areas and beyond, threatening food security and international stability.
The United Kingdom is a founding member of IFAD and shares its objective of combating extreme poverty and hunger in the world’s poorest countries. It has contributed more than $730 million to IFAD’s investments in smallholder farming and rural development in developing countries.