At the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty convened in early April 2013 in Washington, DC, the World Bank Group issued this statement. In the light of land grabs by multinationals that displace smallholder farmers, the Group argues that modern, efficient and transparent policies on land rights are vital to reducing poverty and promoting growth, agriculture production, better nutrition and sustainable development. It supports and endorses the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (the VGs). These guidelines are a major international instrument to inform specific policy reforms, and inform Bank procedures and guidance to clients. The World Bank Group is already working with countries to implement the VGs, with a special focus on Africa. With its partners, it has also developed the Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) as a diagnostic tool to assess the status of land governance at the country level. LGAF assessments have been carried out - or are underway - in 18 countries, 10 of them in Africa.
Poverty and health
In 2001–3 in many countries in Southern Africa national grain stocks had been run down and grain imports were slow to arrive, so that localised harvest shortfalls quickly resulted in three- and four-fold increases in food prices which, for the large number of vulnerable people in the region, spelled crisis. In the end, the donor and government response but equally importantly the response of the commercial sector and people’s own ‘coping’ strategies meant that large-scale famine-related deaths were avoided in 2002 and 2003 but unacceptable levels of chronic food insecurity remain.
This report by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change contains its recommendations to policy makers on how to achieve food security in the face of climate change. The Commission’s recommendations are designed to be implemented concurrently by a constellation of governments, international institutions, investors, agricultural producers, consumers, food companies and researchers. They call for changes in policy, finance, agriculture, development aid, diet choices and food waste as well as revitalised investment in the knowledge systems to support these changes. The Commission recommends significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade; sustainably intensifying agricultural production on the existing land base while reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and reducing losses and waste in the food system. The Commission urges governments attending the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012 to make financial commitments for regionally-based research, implementation, capacity building and monitoring to improve agriculture and food systems.
The 2012 Africa Human Development Report argues that sustainable increases in agricultural productivity protect food entitlements—
the ability of people to access food. Furthering human development
requires nutrition policies that unleash the potential of today’s and future generations. Also, communities must be resilient enough to absorb
shocks and have the power to make decisions about their own lives. The Report shows that the basic right to food and the right to life itself is
being violated in sub-Saharan Africa to an intolerable degree. Building
a food secure continent requires transformative change— change that will be most effective if accompanied by a shift of resources, capacities and
decisions to smallholder farmers, poor communities and women. When women and other vulnerable groups gain a voice in the decisions affecting their lives and livelihoods, their capacity to produce,trade and use food is materially enhanced.
The global food system is under acute and rising pressure - and Africa's farmers are feeling its full force. There is still more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, says the Panel in this report, but population and economic growth as well as the search for low-carbon energy sources are driving up demand for arable land, while climate change, ecological constraints and lower levels of productivity growth in agriculture are limiting food supply. While these emerging strains in the global food system offer Africa some opportunities, they also carry very large risks. Higher food prices could create incentives for African governments to invest in agriculture and raise productivity, or they could lead to a dramatic worsening of poverty and malnutrition among vulnerable populations. Africa's vast untapped potential in agriculture could become a source of rural prosperity and more balanced economic growth, or it could act as a magnet for more speculative investments, land grabs and the displacement of local communities. Carbon markets might open up opportunities for small farmers to benefit from climate change mitigation efforts in rich countries, though the benefits have so far proven limited and the future of these markets remains uncertain. What is certain is that Africa's farmers will bear the brunt of dangerous climate change, with drought and unpredictable rainfall patterns reinforcing rural poverty and undermining food systems.
An estimated 200 million people on the continent are undernourished, and their numbers have increased by almost 20 percent since the early 1990s. The result is that more than a third of African children are stunted in their growth and must face a range of physical and cognitive challenges not faced by their better-fed peers. Undernutrition is the major risk factor underlying over 28 percent of all deaths in Africa (some 2.9 million deaths annually). The continuing human costs of inadequate food and nutrition are enormous, and the aggregate costs of food and nutrition insecurity at the national level impose a heavy burden on efforts to foster sustained economic growth and improved general welfare.
Food security in Africa is likely to be "severely compromised" by climate change, with production expected to halve by 2020, according to climate change experts. The projections in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said about 25 percent of Africa's population - nearly 200 million people - do not have easy access to water; that figure is expected to jump by another 50 million by 2020 and more than double by the 2050s, according to the report. This year drought-affected parts of southern Africa - Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho - experienced a 40 percent to 60 percent reduction in maize production, for which global warming was partly to blame, noted the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). But the IPCC report was more cautious. "The contribution of climate to food insecurity in Africa is still not fully understood, particularly the role of other multiple stresses that enhance impacts of droughts and floods and possible future climate change".
As the International Year of Cooperatives is being observed in 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that one of the only chances small-scale food producers have to gain competitive access to local and global markets is by banding together in cooperatives. According to FAO chief, Graziano da Silva, cooperatives follow core values and principles that are critical to doing business in an equitable manner, that empower and benefit members and the local community. This is especially relevant in poor rural communities and in promoting sustainable local development. He said that the cooperative business model helps small- and medium-scale farmers add value to their production and access markets. Small scale food producers are also able to take part in policy discussions through co-operatives. Co-operatives help to generate employment, boost national economies, reduce poverty and improve food security. The FAO has pledged to foster the growth of agricultural cooperatives, including through their promotion by special ambassadors for cooperatives and by developing approaches, guidelines, methodologies and training tools for supporting policy on and organisational development of co-operatives.
Agricultural experts and policymakers have formed a new institution to promote sustainable food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and to deal with the challenges posed by climate change. The African Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) which aims to advocate for sustainable ecosystem-friendly agricultural systems was formed during the 2nd Africa Ecosystem Based Adaptation for Food Security Conference held in Kenya on 30-31 July, 2015. Africa loses about six million of productive land a year through deforestation, with almost 65 per cent of the continent’s land being under pressure from land degradation, the conference heard. The EBAFOSA will work towards achieving food security, ecological productivity, job creation, poverty reduction, value addition and sustainable industrial development in Africa.
Health experts have pointed out that African countries with good maternal health statistics are generally those that have long-term political stability, like Botswana, arguing that this shows that stability is a fundamental basis for development. Generally, maternal health is neglected in public health, as most African countries focus on the eradication of poverty and hunger, according to a spokesperson from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ivory Coast. The UNDP spokesperson added that few governments seem to be aware of the close link between maternal health and poverty. It takes strong leadership at the country level to shift priorities and spend more on maternal and child health, as well as more effectively implement existing policies and international agreements, he added. One example is the right to family planning, which has not yet been included in public health care provision in many African countries.