BY IRENE LAMUNU
Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. It’s believed that once people have access to food, it becomes easy for them to remove themselves from poverty.
Experts urge that food security is the easiest way and first step in fighting poverty. It is believed that once people have enough food, they can come out of poverty easily because they will have food to feed their families and the surplus is sold in the market thus earning them an income. The experts also believe that once one is poor, any little money they receive is usually used in buying food to feed the family which does not help their situation improve.
The Uganda Food Nutrition Policy and its associated strategies have been formulated within the context of the overall national development policy objective, which is to eradicate poverty as detailed in the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP).
This is important given that poverty is one of the determinants of malnutrition and the recognition of the vicious cycle between poverty and malnutrition. In addition, the policy is in line with the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA), which seeks to ensure food security, create gainful employment, increase incomes and improve the quality of life of the rural people.
Relief web also published a report by the Asian Development Bank on
food security and poverty in Asia and the pacific key challenges and policy
issues in 2012 stating that “food security should be at the heart of any discussion on poverty.” The reason they gave was that, food security and poverty reduction are inseparable. They believe that although Food security
alone does not eradicate poverty, any strategy to fight poverty must be
integrated with policies to ensure Food security and to offer the best chance of reducing mass poverty and hunger. The report also emphasizes that
rising food prices disproportionately affects the poor and counteracts
efforts at poverty reduction in many ways. Thus, although rising food
prices affect everyone, the impact is disproportionately large among the
poor, who spend a greater proportion of their budgets up to 60%–70% on food. It was brought to light that, poverty rates had significantly reduced across Asia in the late 2000s, as the pace of poverty reduction was slowed by rising food prices. During that period, an additional 112 million in Asia could have escaped poverty annually, had food prices not increased, according to Asian Development Bank estimates. Meanwhile, The Malawi Times published an op-ed by senior research fellow Todd Benson who wrote, “Malawi’s food systems are in crisis and over the past 10 years, an average of 2.3 million Malawians annually have been vulnerable to hunger. Yet the country’s policy approach to food security continues to center on subsistence production. The International food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) also published a book titled, ‘Disentangling Food security from
subsistence agriculture in Malawi By Todd Benson.’ In this book, Benson presents a set of approaches that are advanced to change how most Malawians obtain their food away from reliance on their production to dependence on strengthened markets. The book stresses the importance of
successful participation; “All market participants must profit – farmers must always be able to find sufficient traders offering remunerative prices for their increased crop output at the same time as households that increasingly rely on non-farm livelihoods must always be able to find the food they require from traders at reasonable prices. Stronger markets
that operate predictability for the benefit of producers, consumers and traders will facilitate reliable access to food for all Malawians.” However, over the last decade, one million people in Rwanda lifted themselves out
of extreme poverty, capitalizing on a rapidly improving agriculture sector in which the International Development Association (IDA) has been proud to make substantial investments. Although agriculture is the backbone
of the Rwandan economy accounting for 33% of GDP, occupying 79.5% of the labour force, and generating more than 45% of the country’s export revenues—its development has been constrained by population density, hilly terrain and soil erosion. Since 2001, Rwanda has worked closely with IDA to make on-the-ground investments to achieve food security and increase agricultural productivity. Agricultural production has more
than doubled and Rwanda was able to attain food security in 2010, producing enough on its own to not have to rely on imports. Agricultural productivity increased by more than one-third in ten years, commercialization expanded, allowing rapid export growth, and
farmers’ incomes in some cases rose by 30%. This helped cut the extreme poverty rate by 14%. Between 2006 and 2011, poverty was reduced by about 12% owing largely to increased productivity (35%) and commercialization (10%) in the agriculture sector. In September, The Daily monitor published an article warning that hunger crisis gets louder in East African countries. The article went ahead to state that, despite efforts by regional governments to achieve Food security through elaborate plans and policies,
the region remains food deficient. Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Somalia, all are currently facing different levels of food
deficiencies due to drought, insufficient rainfall, conflict, locust invasion and the aftershocks of Covid-19, which affect economic growth.
According to the East Africa Food Security Outlook, from June 2021 to
January 2022 as published by the Relief Web, food assistance needs will remain high and above average in Somalia, southern and southeastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya through at least early 2022. These issues came up at the annual Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit held on September 7th to 10th in Nairobi. The summit focused on accelerating progress in the development of resilient food systems in the region and the continent. At the summit, it was noted that the Tigray region in Ethiopia will face severe food shortages due to the almost one year of conflict, while in the eastern Horn and northern Uganda, many households have already lost food and incomes due to the impact of irregular rainfall on crop and livestock production in early-to-mid 2021. With the conflict on-going, economic shocks are expected to exacerbate the severity of acute Food insecurity in parts of the region, especially in Ethiopia, South
Sudan and Sudan. The Covid pandemic also continues to affect food security, especially among urban households in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and among refugees in Uganda, thus affecting development. In Kenya, according to the National Drought Management Authority, the government has put more than 12 out of the 47 counties on red alert with government figures showing that about 400,000 people are facing starvation in the coastal region alone. According to the United Nations Office for the
Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 2.1 million people in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya are severely food insecure, following two consecutive seasons of poor rains, which have hampered crop production. Limited access to food aggravated by the loss of income and closure of markets in some Kenyan counties due to Covid-19 has left over 532,000 children under five years and 93,300 pregnant or lactating
women in urgent need of treatment for acute malnutrition. From January to July, humanitarian organizations in Kenya reached 491,000 people with critical assistance, including food and agricultural inputs, treatment
for acute malnutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as health, education and protection services. In Sudan, for instance, the Famine Early
Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) estimates that poor macroeconomic
conditions, as well as protracted conflict in parts of Darfur, Kordofan, and Red Sea states and widespread seasonal floods, are pushing food assistance
needs nearly 50-60 percent above the five-year average. The former Prime
Minister of Ethiopia and AGRF Board Chair, Hailemariam Dessalegn, said that a lot needs to be done to increase food production and make the region food- sufficient through inclusive agriculture. Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister, Adolf Mkenda acknowledged during the launch that productivity in the sector is still a major hurdle that limits farmers’ earnings and their contribution to the national economy. Contribution of the crop sub-sector to the nation’s GDP is still low at 15.4 percent, while in total, the agriculture sector contribution is also not satisfactory at 26.9 percent.
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