Even as a UN report warned of a looming food crisis in the Horn of Africa due to expected dry spell in the coming months, it emerged that Africa has the capacity to become self-sufficient in food and even become a net exporter.
But African governments lack political will to put food security top in the agenda.
According to the Horn of Africa Crisis Situation Report, a new food analysis of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification in Djibouti indicates that the situation has deteriorated from “stressed” to “crisis”.
In Ethiopia, drought conditions are expected to worsen in the northern parts of Afar and parts of northern Somalia despite the short rains the region received between October and December.
“On the other hand, drought conditions in the northern, north-eastern and southern parts of Kenya have significantly eased following good rainfall received in the October-December short rains season,” says the report.
Other issues contributors to food scarcity include lack or skewed distribution and the armed conflicts in the continent.
A recent meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to celebrate the first anniversary of the African Food and Nutrition Security Day revealed that Africa has the potential to feed itself but the continent still suffers from widespread malnutrition while spending millions of US dollars annually to import food.
The main concern is that Africa, after 50 years after independence, and being endowed with land and water resources, is still suffering from food insecurity and perpetually rely on food aid. The continent spends about $50 billion annually to import food from the global market.
In July, certain regions of the countries in the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, experienced dire food shortages due to a combination of the most severe drought in the region in 40 years and conflict Somalia.
Over 13 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance, including 700,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and nearly 1.5 million displaced people inside Somalia. The famine affected virtually the entire northern Kenya, especially Turkana.
Despite massive humanitarian response from across the world, including Kenya’s initiative dubbed “Kenyans for Kenya”, the situation is still delicate, even as attention has shifted to other issues.
In Kenya for instance, the problem was not lack of food, but lack of proper distribution mechanism by the government to move food from areas with abundant harvests to those with food-scarcity.
The African Food and Nutrition Security Day was launched in Lilongwe, Malawi in October 2010. Malawi is one of the few African countries that have achieved food-security status.
Working under the theme, “Investing in Inter-Africa Trade”, the challenge facing African countries is the struggle for individual countries to meet food security rather than use the regional economic blocs to move food from food sufficient countries to food-deficient ones.