United Nations Development Programme:  Africa Human Development Report 2012

United Nations Development Programme: Africa Human Development Report 2012

(www.undp.org) – Hunger and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa have lasted too long. But Africans are not consigned to a lifetime of food insecurity. The knowledge, technology and resources for closing the food security deficit are available today, and breakthroughs will continue to emerge from research and development. But no one believes it is possible simply to distribute better seeds and more fertilizer to African farmers and then to walk away. Nor will economic growth alone solve the problem. The failures that add up to food insecurity are pervasive, from agricultural, health, education and nutrition policies to research, extension services, sanitation, local government, commerce and transport. An effective response to a challenge this broad cannot be narrowed to a single intervention, discipline or institutional mandate. It will take a coordinated response across sectors.

This Africa Human Development Report, the first, 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.

For too long the face of sub-Saharan Africa has been one of dehumanizing hunger. More than one in four Africans is undernourished, and food insecurity – the inability to consistently acquire enough calories and nutrients for a healthy and productive life – is pervasive. The spectre of famine, which has virtually disappeared elsewhere in the world, continues to haunt parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Famines grab headlines, but chronic food insecurity and malnutrition are more insidious, often silent, daily calamities for millions of Africans.

Yet sub-Saharan Africa has ample agricultural land, plenty of water and a generally favourable climate for growing food. And in the last 10 years many African countries posted world-beating economic growth rates and were among the fastest movers on the Human Development Index. With these endowments and important economic and social achievements, why is the region still food insecure? These two jarring paradoxes are the point of departure for this report.