FOOD SECURITY AND SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH IN AFRICA

The latest food security report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, highlights that millions worldwide suffer from hunger. The situation is particularly dire in Africa, where it is predicted that over 600 million people will be food insecure by 2030.

Ensuring food security is a top priority in many African countries, with households, particularly in rural areas, continuing to face significant nutrition and food security challenges. However, food insecurity is a complex problem with numerous interrelated factors contributing to its prevalence. This problem stems from various economic, physical, political, and social issues, all of which could have significant impacts not only on households and communities but also on entire nations.

Africa's food security challenges are exacerbated by geopolitical factors beyond its control, such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine has highlighted the risks of Africa's dependence on external sources of essential goods and food. The ongoing conflict has caused disruptions in food supply chains, causing prices for these essential goods to rise. Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt food security in Africa. This was mainly due to disruptions in food supply systems, which led to irregular prices for agricultural and food products.

Food insecurity is a severe issue that profoundly impacts families, their health and their overall well-being. Households that need a reliable food source are at an increased risk of being malnourished. This can have serious consequences, especially for school-age children who may lack the energy to participate in classes or extracurricular activities, affecting their education and overall development.

Malnutrition is widespread in Africa, where poverty is high, and many families lack the means to produce food for their sustenance. This creates a vicious cycle of food insecurity and malnutrition, which ultimately weakens the workforce and hinders the country's overall development. Achieving national development goals and ending inequalities requires a strong force. By addressing food insecurity, we can create a more equitable world where everyone can access healthy food and all communities can thrive. To achieve development and Sustainable Development Goal 2, it is essential to eliminate hunger.

The problem of food insecurity in Africa is a serious obstacle that can only be overcome through concerted efforts from various stakeholders. To effectively address this problem, we must prioritise transforming our food systems from production to trade to consumption. As we celebrate Food Security Day in Africa, we must take a critical look at our reliance on maise as a staple food in many African countries. While maise has traditionally been seen as key to food security in countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, recent climate changes have caused significant disruptions to maise production, particularly for impoverished households that cannot afford fertiliser.

It is thus imperative that we focus on growing drought-resistant crops that are culturally appropriate for diverse ethnic communities across Africa. The question of which crops to grow is crucial, and the answer to it is critical to food security in Africa.

Genetically modified drought-resistant crops can provide viable solutions to food security challenges in Africa. However, the success of such initiatives depends on people's socio-cultural and religious understanding of the risks and ethical concerns associated with biotechnology in agriculture, their ability to access sufficient funds to purchase genetically modified seeds and their political will. This necessitates dialogue between scientists, politicians and local communities to find viable solutions acceptable to all stakeholders.

The problem of food insecurity in Africa is a serious obstacle that can only be overcome through concerted efforts from various stakeholders.


Recent studies have shown that a significant proportion of the African population does not eat a balanced diet. This highlights the urgent need to promote discussion and knowledge sharing on the factors affecting household and community food security. The aim is to implement measures to promote high agricultural production, considering social, cultural, political, economic and global aspects that affect food security. Furthermore, it is crucial to re-evaluate current practices that harm the environment and ecosystems, as they could severely impact agriculture. It is essential to recognise that more than providing agricultural resources and inputs alone is needed to ensure food security, as activities in different community areas could threaten biodiversity and affect crop production.

Investigation into the domains of food security and sustainability utilising transdisciplinary approaches is of paramount importance. This type of research has the potential to generate valuable insights that can be used to advocate for the conservation of the planet and its ecosystems, thereby ensuring the well-being of both current and future generations.

To eliminate hunger and food insecurity in Africa, it is vital to analyse all factors that impact people's ability to make a living and determine how these factors can support or hinder efforts to achieve this goal. It is crucial to recognise the existence of African cultural values, such as Ubuntu, that govern human behaviour and to examine how these values can be used to restore the environment and ensure food security.

Ending hunger in Africa can be achieved by implementing transdisciplinary methodologies that provide a comprehensive understanding of community needs, political dynamics, and sociocultural principles that impact household food security. Joint efforts by governments, NGOs, local communities, academia, research centres and private sector actors hold the potential to achieve food security for both current and future generations. By working together, it is possible to leverage collective expertise to address the problem of food insecurity and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Article submitted by Dorothy Tembo

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.