Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security

ADFNS-201541

By Katy Wilson

This Friday (30th October) marks the 6th annual Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS). This year the day will be commemorated in Kampala, Uganda, where, at the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in 2010 it was first declared. Since then the day has been commemorated in Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2014 at the 23rd session of the AU summit, African Heads of State committed to ending hunger by 2025 and reducing stunting to 10% in the same period. This commitment is one of seven forming the Malabo Declaration. ADFNS provides an opportunity to reaffirm this goal and report on progress that has been made in reaching this commitment, among other objectives. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report asserts that, as projected for 2014-2016, the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 23.2%%, down from 23.8% between 2012-2014.

The main aim of ADFNS is to bring together a range of stakeholders to intensify pressure to tackle food and nutrition security challenges in Africa, motivate financial commitments and bring greater awareness to the progress being made on the continent and the barriers still being faced. Additionally the day serves as a platform to facilitate sharing of experiences and knowledge, support for learning and measurement of progress.

The key objectives of ADFNS are:

  • To increase awareness of the importance of investing in the value-chains for nutritious foods and agricultural commodities in Africa and the benefits of doing so for social and economic development;
  • To facilitate a discussion between a variety of high-level national stakeholders as well as other governmental, not-for-profit and private sector actors such as farmers’ organisations, private businesses and academic and research institutions. With the hopes that the diverse points of view and cooperation will help shape an action plan to end hunger and malnutrition;
  • To share new technologies and best practices for empowering women;
  • To build women farmers’ awareness of market opportunities for local and indigenous foods and their role in diversifying diets and boosting food and nutrition security;
  • To promote the production and consumption of high quality, nutritious foods such as those fortified with micronutrients, or diverse nutrient dense vegetables and fruits as well animal source foods.

This year, the 6th ADFNS is centring on the theme of women, following the announcement made at the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit that 2015 is the Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. As has long been known, women are key to ending hunger and malnutrition, contributing a significant proportion of farm labour and household care. [Read more…]

The Budongo Forest Landscape: Diets, Food Security and Nutrition

IMG_1366Around the Budongo forest, expanding sugarcane production, the establishment of tree plantations and forest loss have altered the landscape. In this rural area where nearly all households have a home garden or farm and, as such, rely, to varying degrees, on the food produced on their own land, such land use change can have a dramatic impact on livelihoods, diets and nutrition. Be it because of an increased incidence of crop raiding, unreliable weather patterns and seasons, or soil erosion, all thought to be a result of forest loss in the area, the changing landscape is a cause for concern among those who live there. A key element of the research in this landscape is to try to understand the links between land use change and food and nutrition security. As a first step this included investigating current levels of food insecurity, the diets of local people, how households characterise food security and what the drivers of food insecurity might be.

In Uganda, 48% of households were food energy deficient between 2009 and 2010 and the number of people suffering from hunger has increased from 12 million in 1992 to 17.7 million in 2007, mainly due to high population growth.

Deaths in children attributed to malnutrition 40%
% of children under the age of five who are stunted 38%
% of children under the age of five who are underweight for their age 25.5%
Prevalence rate of vitamin A deficiency 5.4%
% of the population affected by iron deficiency anaemia >50%
Total goitre rate due to iodine deficiency >60%
Average calorie consumption as a per cent of recommended requirements 75-90%
% below minimum recommended levels for protein consumption 33%
% below minimum recommended levels for fat consumption 20%

Source: MAAIF & MIH, 2005

In the Budongo Forest landscape, individuals and communities were asked about their ability to access and produce enough food. Many people reported that due to decreasing soil fertility, land exhaustion, high food prices and unpredictable or extreme weather such as droughts and floods, they were not able to produce enough food for their families year round. Many families (just under 50% of the 540 households interviewed) shared that they had experienced food shortages in the last year, with 3 to 6 months being the most common length of time such food scarcity occurred for. During these times coping mechanisms, apart from eating less, included turning to a neighbour or family member for help or trying to obtain a job on someone else’s land as a labourer. Income earned off the farm is then used to buy food or rent land to produce more food. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

WHO to basically everybody: Stop eating so much sugar, The Washington Post

Five Lessons from the Frontlines of Africa’s Green Revolution, Ventures

Grow Markets, Fight Hunger: A Food Security Framework for US-Africa Trade Relations, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

EU State of the Environment Report, European Environment Agency

Ugandan farmers take on palm oil giants over land grab claims, The Guardian

Better genes for better (more adaptable) beans, EurekAlert

How to reduce losses on the way to the market, Daily Monitor

Climate change and compassion: the missing link?, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Can Public-Private Partnerships Actually Benefit the Poor?, PAEPARD [Read more…]

The Budongo Forest Landscape: Sugarcane, food security and household wealth

IMG_1498The Budongo Forest Landscape, in western Uganda, has, in the recent past, seen a marked change in the land cover, predominantly from forest to sugarcane. The expansion of sugarcane has resulted in large areas of forest and bushland being converted to agriculture in the last 10 to 15 years, decreasing connectivity between forest patches. Kinyara Sugar Works Ltd (KSWL), established in the 1960s and rehabilitated in the 1980s, has grown rapidly in the past couple of decades – sugarcane fields now covering some 28,500ha. Until now their growth strategy appears to have been expansion at all costs, largely through the development of their outgrowers scheme. Today there are about 6,000 outgrowers who provide 60% of the company’s capacity. At present they are no longer taking on new outgrowers, due to capacity having been reached at the mill and their future growth plans focus far more on intensification and outgrower training than on expansion.

Putting aside the impacts of forest loss in the landscape, the establishment and growth of Kinyara Sugar Works Ltd has had a significant impact on the people of the area, both beneficial and disadvantageous, and it is difficult to draw conclusions as to whether, amongst outgrowers or the population as a whole, this cash crop has had a positive or negative influence.

The impact of cash crops, in general, on food security and wealth is a topic much debated in the field of agricultural development. Uganda’s Vision 2040 sets out the country’s ambitions for future development, aiming to become an upper middle income country by 2037, and the rates of growth and key activities needed to achieve this, namely a constant GDP growth rate of 8.2% per year (between 2010 and 2013 GDP growth averaged 5.5% per year). The fear is that in pursuing such rapid economic growth, including promoting high value crops, the poorest and most marginalised people will suffer, unable to participate in a formal market-oriented economy. Yet cash crops are often promoted by government as a mechanism for smallholder farmers to increase their incomes and, as a result, improve food security. Although evidence in support of these views is limited, a study of cacao and oil palm farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana found that food availability, food access and utilisation had a negative relationship with the intensity of cash crop farming, thought to be a result of cash crops driving up food prices and competing with subsistence agriculture for land. Another investigation found the relationship between cash crops and household food security to be dependent on many factors including the type of crop, its uses and the market and policy conditions. In essence if well-planned and implemented, smallholder farmers can benefit from the additional income cash crops can bring. Whether this income would then be spent on a diverse range of nutritious foods, and whether such foods would be easy to attain is another matter.

There are cases where cash crops have boosted incomes and provided employment for, if not all then certainly some, farmers. And cash cropping can also raise the productivity of food crops, making inputs, credit and training more accessible. Further, if successful, cash crop schemes can have spillover effects for individuals in the area that are not directly involved in cash crop production, as seen in one case study in Zimbabwe. Because the evidence is so mixed, the only conclusion we can come to is that better evidence is needed to more fully understand the relationship between cash crop production and household food security and incomes, in particular under what circumstances cash crops can improve social outcomes. [Read more…]

The Budongo Forest Landscape: Balancing competing land uses

In several blogs we’ve discussed topics around minimising trade-offs and balancing competing land uses at a landscape scale, particularly in terms of agriculture and environmental goods and services. Many theories and methods of analysis have been suggested that aim to reconcile competing interests and objectives in a landscape and, while fascinating and valuable, these endeavours rarely seem to feature the views of the people that live in such landscapes nor is it always clear how findings relate to current social and political settings. As part of my PhD research on the potential impacts of land sparing and land sharing on forest habitat, ecosystem services, incomes and food security in a rapidly changing landscape, I recently spent several months in western Uganda, around the Budongo Forest Reserve meeting farmers, local government, NGOs and big businesses to better understand the impacts and drivers of land use change in the area. The landscape around the Budongo Forest Reserve is a good example of what can happen when the objectives of the few (and most powerful) are prioritised over those of the majority. In a series of blogs I’ll be exploring the way the landscape has changed, how it may change again and options for reducing poverty and food insecurity with the hope of, through discussion, finding broader lessons applicable to landscapes elsewhere. To this end, readers, your thoughts, comments and questions are both welcome and essential.

To start off the series let me introduce you to the landscape in question.

1

Map showing the location of Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda (Wallace & Hill, 2013)

The Budongo Forest Reserve landscape

The Budongo Forest Reserve in western Uganda is one of the largest tropical forests in the country, containing the highest number of chimpanzees in Uganda. Budongo Forest is located within the Albertine Rift, part of the East African Rift, which spans five countries, and contains more vertebrate species and threatened and endemic species than anywhere else in Africa.

South east of Budongo Forest Reserve, the landscape is characterized by gently rolling hills and a mosaic of rainforest, woodland, grassland, small-scale farms and large-scale sugarcane farming, a mosaic that has seen marked changes particularly in the last two decades. The main land use and source of income in the region is agriculture with many households relying on subsistence farming and forest products for their livelihoods. The most important crops are cassava, maize, bananas, sugarcane and beans.

A rapidly changing landscape

The expansion of cash crops, rapid population growth and migration from within and outside of the country driven by civil war and conflict, as well as poor forest governance have led to vast deforestation, natural resource shortages in such things as firewood and timber, and disputes between residents over, what is fast becoming infertile and exhausted, land. The soils are being depleted rapidly due to slash and burn agriculture, poor access to fertilizer and over cultivation. Many of these drivers continue unchecked and, without intervention, unprotected forest in the landscape is expected to all but disappear in the next 15 years while yields may continue their largely downwards trend. Given the importance of forests for maintaining productive agricultural land, reliable weather patterns and as a source of food, medicine and energy such deforestation is likely to have significant detrimental and perhaps irreversible consequences for the livelihoods of people in the landscape.

Deforestation is thought by both residents and government alike, to have exacerbated poverty, landlessness, changed weather patterns, reduced soil fertility and led to the out migration of once common species. Forests are disappearing quickly in the Budongo Forest Reserve landscape, a trend that is thought to have begun in the 1980s with the growth of sugarcane farming, influxes of migrants and the introduction of pit-sawing, charcoal production and more extensive mechanized farming systems. As of 20210, in the area between Budongo and Bugoma Forest Reserve to the south, approximately 90,000 ha of high forest and 120,000 ha of woodland remain in the landscape outside protected areas, predominantly in small patches of up to several 100ha. Mwavu & Witkowski (2008) investigated land use change in and around Budongo Forest Reserve between 1988 and 2002. Area under sugarcane expanded 17-fold from 690 hectares (ha) in 1988 to 12,729ha in 2002. The loss of 4,680ha of forest (a reduction of 8.2%) occurred on the southern border of the reserve to allow for sugarcane expansion. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Aid to Africa: private sector investment becomes new priority, The Guardian

Africa & agriculture infographic, B4FA

Learning from AGRA’s Market Access Programme, PAEPARD

Has Africa’s focus on farming borne fruit?, The Guardian

What do we know about food riots and their link to food rights? Some interesting new findings from IDS, Duncan Green, Oxfam

Rice Seed Treatments Effective, Worth Investment: Study, Science Daily

Ugandans and pork: A story that needs telling, ILRI

Change in grain policy signals China’s intent to boost meat production, IATP

Kellogg to Stop Buying Deforested Palm Oil Amid Pressure, Bloomberg Businessweek

B4FA travels to AAAS Chicago with all-African panel of speakers, B4FA

GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe, UK Parliament

G8 New Alliance condemned as new wave of colonialism in Africa, The Guardian

2014: Africa at last?, The Hill

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Act Now, or Food Shortages Could Become a Problem for Us All, Gordon Conway, Huffington Post

Eighteen Million Farmers in 27 Countries Chose Biotech Crops in 2013, Global Plantings Increase by 5 Million Hectares, ISAA

Agricultural Technologies Could Increase Global Crop Yields as Much as 67 Percent and Cut Food Prices Nearly in Half by 2050, IFPRI

Invisible Math: Accounting for the Real Costs of Big Ag, Civil Eats

Hidden crop pest threat to poorer nations revealed, EurekAlert

Feeding the World – or feeding the Corporations?, The Ecologist

New GM corn gets controversial EU go-ahead, EU Business

Agriculture Increasingly Spells Opportunity in the Arid Gulf, The Wall Street Journal

Food wars, Cosmos

Uganda takes stock of new climate information service, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Voluntary GE Labels Won’t Work, Huffington Post

The family farming revolution, Al Ahram

Developing a Sustainable Nutrition Research Agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa, PAEPARD

Who’s winning the battle against child mortality?, Devex

Vertical farming explained: how cities could be food producers of the future, The Guardian

From WEF 2014: Water shortage as global risk–now what?, Global Food for Thought