Ex-Directeur général  José Graziano da Silva
Article du Directeur –général de la FAO, José Graziano da Silva

In 2012, developing countries in the world were racing against time to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), among them the target 1.C – halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015.

At that time, we noticed that many African countries were on track to reach this goal (17 countries were later recognized by FAO).  In fact, a sense of hope and promise was abundant as regional economies were quite buoyant.  Global hunger had been steadily declining in absolute terms for many consecutive years, and many African nations had made great strides.

A step further was needed. And in the same year, 2012, the African Union Commission, its NEPAD planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA), the Lula Institute and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the Renewed Partnership to End Hunger in Africa by 2025. This ambitious goal was reinforced two years later, in 2014, by Africa Heads of States through the Malabo Declaration, laying down a road map to making agricultural development the highway to ending hunger, not only halve it. And finally, the 2030 Agenda, adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, defined the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition de Sustainable Development Goal number 2.

The 2017 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report points out that the number of undernourished people in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 was about 224 million, an increase of 24 million compared to 2015. This means 23% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa, almost one out of four African people. But compared with the percentage of undernourishment registered in 2000, the numbers still show a relative decrease. For example, undernourishment in Eastern Africa, the most affected sub-region, decreased from 39% of the population (2000) to 34% (in 2016). It had reached 31% in 2015. 

The increase of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 is directly linked to conflicts and the prolonged drought that affected many countries. Over one-third of the conflicts in the world took place in the region. And they mainly impacted rural areas. The situation was even worse when the impacts of conflicts were combined with the effects of El Niño, La Niña and climate change. This combination is the main reason behind the famine situation in South Sudan, Northeast Nigeria and Somalia, for example. As a result, agriculture was damaged. Food production and food systems were disrupted. And livelihoods have been destroyed.

Despite this panorama, we still have good reasons to be optimistic and believe that eradicating hunger by 2030 is still possible.

Most important: political will has not evaporated. It has indeed been reinforced. The United Nations, led by Secretary General Antonio Guterres, has been tirelessly insisting that sustaining peace is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Many actions have been taken to address the impacts of conflicts trough peacekeeping operations. 

In relation to climate change, there is currently in place the Green Climate Fund, with the engagement of donor countries. So developing countries will have resources to implement climate-smart practices especially towards adaption to a changing climate. FAO, as an implementing agengy, is ready to support its Member Countries to elaborate projects to present to the Green Climate Fund.

Furthermore, there are strong signs that the world economy is recovering. It will create favourable conditions to development.

African countries must take advantage of this new scenario. Well-crafted social protection programmes, for instance, must be implemented and reinforced. Social protection, especially in rural areas, catalyzes a host of benign effects and prioritizes local food production and consumption. Rural smallholders – which for most of Africa are the key channel for making sure adequate food is produced and available – in particular stand to gain, thanks to smoother income cycles and access to stabler local markets.

We also have to transform rural areas in order to create jobs not only in agriculture, but also in non-farm activities in rural and urban areas, especially in small and medium cities. Small agro-industries can provide more local opportunities for youth. The estimates is that 10 to 12 million young people join the labor force each year in Africa. But only around 3 million jobs have been created per year.

Donor funds are increasingly being deployed to bolster nationally-owned development commitments. A key pledge in the Malabo Agreement was to devote 10 percent of state budget outlays to the agricultural sectors. Evidence shows this kind of investment has a very high return, especially in reducing hunger and extreme poverty.

So the African countries bear a fundamental ingredient to end hunger: political commitment. But it is not enough. It is time for implementation. Actions must be taken in the right direction, otherwise undernourishment will continue to cause suffering through the African continent.