FAO Director_General Jacques Diouf hasÂ called for urgent attention to be directed at Africaâ€™s present food security situation.
â€œIn sub_Saharan Africa, since 2009, over 265 million people are malnourished and 30 percent of the population suffers from hunger,â€ Diouf said in his opening statement for the Ministerial Segment of the 26th session of FAOâ€™s Regional Conference for Africa in Luanda, Angola.â€œThis situation clearly demands our urgent and undivided attention,â€ he added.
Agriculture central to policies and development programmesHe noted, however, that despite its negative effect the recent global economic crisis has â€œplaced agriculture and food security at the heart of national and regional development policies and programmes, which allows to look to the next decade with greater optimism.â€
â€œThis new order of priorities should be an opportunity to support small producers and strengthen family farming,â€ he declared.
African agriculture faces multiple constraints, ranging from lack of access to water and modern inputs to poor rural infrastructure. To ensure sustainable food production and achieve food security, agriculture needs to attain significant growth rates over the next four decades. The continent has seen several â€œsuccess storiesâ€ over the past years.
Africa is rich in arable land, water and labour and with the implementation of appropriate policies could increase agricultural production, incomes and food security, Diouf said. In 2008, it produced 152.3 million tonnes of cereals, 12 percent more than the previous year, while projections for 2009 indicate that the continentâ€™s cereal production could reach 160 million tonnes.
Core problem â€“ underinvestmentUnderinvestment in agriculture has been the core reason for African hunger and malnutrition, Diouf said. Only nine African countries allocated at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture, as pledged by heads of state and government at the African Union Summit in Maputo in 2003. At the same time, the share of Official Development Assistance from rich countries that is allocated to developing country agriculture had fallen at the global level from 19 percent in 1980 to around five percent today.
Nonetheless, â€œI remain convinced that with the political will and good governance, Africa will be able to develop its agriculture to adequately feed its population,â€ he stressed.
Quoting Malawi President His Excellency Bingu Wa Mutharika, current Chairperson of the African Union, he added the objective should be that â€œfive years from now, no African child will be dying of hunger and malnutritionâ€.