By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Mar 3 2023 (IPS)
The data is shocking: three-quarters of African Governments have already reduced their agricultural budgets while paying almost double that on arms.
Africa is home to a quarter of the world’s entire agricultural land. Nevertheless, in the 12 months that African leaders vowed to improve food security in the continent, over 20 million more people have been pushed into “severe hunger.”
Today “a fifth of the African population (or 278 million) is undernourished, and 55 million of its children under the age of five are stunted due to severe malnutrition,” Oxfam International adds to the above data in its report: Over 20 million more people hungry in Africa’s “year of nutrition”.
“The hunger African people are facing today is a direct result of inadequate political choices…,” said Fati N’Zi-Hassane, Oxfam in Africa Director.
The report further explains that chronic underinvestment in agriculture is a key cause of the widespread hunger experienced in 2022.
The majority of African governments (48 out of 54) reportedly spend an average of 3.8% of their budgets on agriculture -some spending as little as 1%. Nearly three quarters of these governments have reduced their agricultural spending since 2019, failing to honour their Malabo commitments to invest at least 10% of their budget on agriculture
Specifically, it adds, the majority of African governments (48 out of 54) reportedly spend an average of 3.8% of their budgets on agriculture -some spending as little as 1%.
“Nearly three quarters of these governments have reduced their agricultural spending since 2019, failing to honour their Malabo commitments to invest at least 10% of their budget on agriculture.”
In 2014 African leaders signed the Malabo Declaration, which stipulated that African governments must spend at least 10% of their budget on Agriculture and supporting farmers.
Politicians doubling military spending
In contrast, “African governments spent nearly double that budget (6.4%) on arms last year. Ongoing conflict, especially in Sahel and Central Africa, has continued to destroy farmland, displace people and fuel hunger.”
In addition, “worsening climate-fuelled droughts and floods, and a global rise in fuel and fertilisers prices, made food unobtainable for millions of people. In 2022 alone, food inflation rose by double digits in all but ten African countries.”
No access to neighbouring markets
As the 36th African Union Summit was held in February 2023, focussing on intra-continental free trade, “millions of smallholder farmers, who are vital food producers in the continent, cannot reach markets in neighbouring countries due to poor infrastructure and high intra-African tariffs.”
In other words, “many African nations find it cheaper to import food from outside the continent than from their next-door neighbour.”
According to Oxfam:
- As of August 2022 (the last available figure), there were 139.95 million people in 35 African countries living in “Crisis or worse acute food insecurity.” That is an increase of 17% (20.26 million people) over the same number a year earlier (119.69 million people).
- This increase can be attributed to both a worsening acute food insecurity situation and an expansion in the population analysed between 2021 and 2022. (Source: Global Report on Food Crises Mid-Year Update 2022).
- The average spending on military as share of total budget is 6.43% (2021) as reported at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, while the average spending in agriculture (2021) was 3.8% as reported on GovernmentSpendingWatch
- South Sudan spends less than 1% of its budget on Agriculture. Calculations of all agricultural spending in Africa is based on data from the government spending watch, national budgets and FAO.
- According to the CAADP report and the FAO Crop Prospects report, Africa’s cereal production in 2022 was 207.4 million tons, a decline of 3.4 million tons from the average of the previous five years.
Five-fold increase in extreme weather events
The increasing hunger in Africa –which is imposed by both externally and internally– is just part of a widespread drama.
In fact, climate change is fuelling hunger for millions of people around the world. “Extreme weather events have increased five-fold over the past 50 years, destroying homes, decimating livelihoods, fuelling conflict and displacement, and deepening inequality,” Oxfam reports.
Hunger more than doubling
Climate change has resulted in more frequent and intense droughts, floods, and heat waves. “The number of disasters has increased five-fold over the past 50 years.”
This is hitting low-income countries hardest, Oxfam goes on, adding that the 10 countries with the highest UN appeals related to weather extremes since 2000, have seen a 123% rise in the number of people suffering extreme hunger -from 21.3 million to 47.5 million.
These countries are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Zimbabwe. According to this data, 7 out of these 10 countries are Africans.
Fossil fuel staggering profits
The G20 countries are amongst the most polluting nations in the world, collectively responsible for nearly 77% of carbon emissions, reports Oxfam, a global movement of people, working together to end the injustice of poverty, by tackling the inequality that keeps people poor.
It is extraordinary that as humanity faces this existential crisis, there is still more incentive to destroy our planet than to save lives.
“The oil and gas industry has enjoyed staggering profits as they wreak havoc on the planet –amassing 2.8 billion US dollars a day (or more than 1 trillion US dollars per year) for the last 50 years.”
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) reports that the current seismic hunger crisis has been caused by a deadly combination of factors: conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes are combining to create a food crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Much so that “as many as 828 million people are unsure of where their next meal is coming from.”
In its report ‘2023: Another year of extreme jeopardy for those struggling to feed their families,’ WFP warns that a record 349 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity – up from 287 million in 2021. This constitutes a staggering rise of 200 million people compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.
More than 900,000 people worldwide are fighting to survive in famine-like conditions, the world body reports, adding that this is “ten times more than five years ago, an alarmingly rapid increase.”
In short, politicians also in the most needed and highest exposed to staggering hunger countries, continue to attach higher relevance to spending on arms fueling conflicts, and on fuel fuels spreading climate disasters, rather than investing in saving the lives of their own people.