Regional Office


 for Africa (RAF)



Africa’s hungry paying the cost of the global downturn

6 November 2009, Accra - As the World Summit on Food Security approaches, the number of people affected by chronic hunger in Africa continues to rise.

Rising inflation as a result of the global downturn and the impact of last year’s soaring food prices have pushed up the cost of basic household commodities. In sub-Saharan Africa 80 to 90 percent of all cereal prices monitored by FAO in 27 countries remain more than 25 percent higher than before the soaring food price crisis two years ago.

African countries are heavily dependent on food imports in comparison to other world regions due to high consumption of rice and maize products coupled with low domestic food production.

Despite African governments having pledged to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2010, high levels of chronic hunger and malnutrition continue to persist across Africa.   Over half a billion people in Africa are suffering from hunger and one in four children in the region suffers from malnutrition.

Rising population trends have placed an added burden on the supply of food particularly for vulnerable households. Africa’s population is expected to rise by one billion over the next four decades, posing the risk of the continent being plunged into a deepening food crisis.

Climate change is also having a direct impact on the performance of agriculture yields in Africa which have fallen by up to 50% in some cases due to the increases prevalence on drought and chronic flooding.

Deteriorating food security mean that the vast majority of the continents poor struggle to buy and grow sufficient food to survive.
Growing momentum behind agriculture reform and rural development has galvanised efforts to reduce hunger and increase food production in the region. FAO is working in partnership with NEPAD’s Common Agriculture Africa Development Programme (CAADP) to deliver widespread reform to Africa’s agriculture sector including boosting crop production, financing local rural infrastructure and building capacity for African agriculture research and development institutions. CAADP has set African governments a 10% target of national budgets to be allocated to agriculture and a 6% annual target for agriculture growth.

The World Summit on Food Security will address the need for a more coherent and effective system of governance of food security, including rules and mechanisms to ensure adequate incomes for farmers, mobilizing investments into agricultural infrastructure and access to inputs, and a mechanism for early warning systems to food crises. The summit will be held in Rome between 16-18 November.

FAO advocates investment of $30BN a year to improve agriculture productivity and enhance the livelihoods of poor rural communities in the struggle for food security. Strengthening rural markets by financing local infrastructure and protecting the environment through the development and conversation of natural resources are cited as fundamental to delivering rural development in the region. The recent $20BN pledge from the G8 to tackle global food security will make a significant contribution towards securing progress at regional level.  

Safety net provisions for the most vulnerable are highlighted as an effective tool in ensuring access to affordable food. Ethiopia’s productive safety net programme, (backed by FAO) is the largest in Africa –covering 8 million beneficiaries involving the distribution of food or cash in return for employment. The aim is for food insecure households to graduate from food insecurity in less than 5 years. Donors in partnership with the Ethiopian government have pledge future funding for the programme which will be expanded to cover areas such as agricultural support, extension and education.

Malawi has recently introduced a national fertiliser subsidy programme to boost maize production targeted at the poorest rural households. On average maize yields have risen to 2.2 tonnes per ha over a 50% increase from the 2004 drought period allowing Malawi to export over 300,000s tons of maize to Zimbabwe in 2007. The government is currently engaging the private sector to support an initiative to double food production by 2050.

FAO works in 48 countries in Africa providing technical assistance and implementing programmes tackling food security and delivering agriculture market reform.