Africa is not spending enough on food (Find your feet)

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Africa is not spending enough on food

This piece was posted by Hilde Faugli, Communications Intern at Find Your Feet.

While most talk about Africa these days centers on the World Cup in South Africa, sobering facts about the continent’s food situation have been presented in an International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) paper entitled Public Spending for Agriculture in Africa: Trends and Composition. According to the paper insufficient spending on agriculture Africa means that the continent is “now facing the same type of long-term food deficit problem that India faced in the early 1960s.

70 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income. Spending money on food production is therefore critical. Regrettably, only eight African countries have reached the target adopted by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in 2003. Back then, the continent committed to allocating 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture. The countries to reach the 10 percent target are Niger, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

As a result of the inadequate investment in the African agriculture sector, the continent is vulnerable to frequent food crises and countries are dependent on emergency food aid and food imports. The paper argues that governments and donors in the past have devoted more resources to emergency aid than to long-term agricultural development, which further undermines the countries’ ability to generate economic and agricultural growth. “Consequently, poverty and hunger have persisted and threaten the likelihood that some countries will meet the MDGs”. The authors recommend increased investment in what they call the prime movers – human capital, technology and institutional innovations – to increase farm production and accelerate agricultural growth. As climate change is likely to have an adverse effect on the continents food production, increased government spending will probably prove even more important in the future.

Meanwhile, donor funding for agriculture in Africa has dropped dramatically – from 15 percent in the 1980s to 4 percent in 2006- but the amount countries allocate from aid to food production also varies quite considerably. In 2007 Botswana and Nigeria spent less than 1 percent of all aid received on agriculture while Burkina Faso in 2006 spent 8 percent of its total aid on agriculture.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.