W/W0506/c - E.575
March 1996

For reasons of economy, this document is produced in a limited number of copies. Delegates and observers are kindly requested to bring it to the meetings and to refrain from asking for additional copies, unless strictly indispensable.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 16-20 April 1996



1. Overall food security situation 3
Adequacy and stability of food supplies at the national level 3
Food emergencies4
2. Food security trends, issues and outlook 4
Raising food production 4
Increasing the cropped area 5
Increasing productivity 5
Agricultural research, improved technology and dissemination 6
Increasing livestock production 6
Improving and stabilizing food consumption through trade 7
Food security, external debt and aid 8
Policy framework for improving food security 8
Safety nets for vulnerable groups 8
3. The World Food Summit and regional goals for food security 9
Draft contribution of the Africa Regional Conference to the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit 9
Enabling political and economic environment for food security 10
Improving food access to poor and vulnerable groups 11
Ensuring adequate and timely food aid and emergency assistance 12
Enhancing domestic food supply capacity 12
Enhancing export earning capacity to meet import needs 14
Accelerating agricultural and rural development 15
Enhancing human development and social participation 16
1. World and regional indicators of food security 19


1. The Committee on World Food Security expressed its wish to benefit from the perspectives of the regional conferences on the major, regionally specific, issues, policies and actions, as their contribution to the World Food Summit Plan of Action. The purpose of this paper is to stimulate regional-level discussions on the policies and priority actions needed to ensure food security in the member countries of the Africa Region. Similar papers have been prepared for the other regional conferences to be held in the course of 1996.


2. Over the past three decades, world food production has grown faster than population. Per caput food production is today about 18 percent above that of 30 years ago. Food availability for direct human consumption is equivalent to some 2 700 calories per person per day, up from 2 300 calories 30 years ago. At one extreme, in Western Europe per caput food availabilities stand at some 3 500 calories and in North America at some 3 600. At the other extreme, average per caput food availabilities are only 2 300 calories in Africa.

3. Despite the considerable progress achieved in increasing per caput food supplies, more than 800 million people in the developing countries were undernourished in the early 1990s. Millions more suffer debilitating diseases related to micronutrient deficiencies and to contaminated food and water. Every day, one out of five people in the developing world cannot get enough food to meet his or her daily needs; in 17 African countries, two or three out of five people do not have adequate food. The Western European, North American, Near East and Latin American and the Caribbean regions had the lowest percentage of undernourished people. The largest numbers, though declining, are to be found in Asia but those in Africa have been increasing in total and, in many countries, as a proportion of the population.

4. In addition to the chronically undernourished, civil strife and wars have adversely affected millions of people. Although food assistance is provided to ease their plight, the per person amount provided is too often insufficient for good health. The sharp reduction in food aid availability over the past three years has reduced the capacity to face crisis situations.

5. To bring each undernourished person to his or her respective energy requirement level (2 200 calories/day) would require, on average, an additional 570 calories/day. This is obviously an underestimate of any realistic estimate to eliminate malnourishment. World food consumption in 1990-92 was short of such needs by about 3 percent. In more concrete terms, given that cereals represent around 60 percent of the calorie supply of the population of the developing countries, the gap in cereals would represent about 30 million tons of grains (to be compared with about 9­12 million tons of food aid in recent years). The food gap varies widely between regions, ranging from negligible in some western industrialized countries to about 5 percent in the low-income food deficit countries (LIFDCs), 10 percent in Africa and close to 5 percent in the developing countries as a whole.

6. The prospects for the future, as they emerge from FAO's World Agriculture: Towards 2010 study (1995), indicate that trends towards increasing per caput food supplies in most developing
countries will continue. For the developing countries as a whole, average per caput food supplies are expected to reach 2 730 calories in 2010 - a substantial increase from 2 520 in the years 1990­92.

7. Despite such progress, it is still projected that the developing countries will have some 700 to 800 million undernourished persons by 2010. The two regions projected to have the largest number of undernourished remain South Asia and Africa. However, while in South Asia their number is forecast to diminish sharply, bringing their share of total population close to the 12 percent average of developing countries as a whole, in Africa the number of undernourished is projected to increase by about 100 million to over 300 million, practically all in the LIFDCs.

8. The forecast level of undernutrition would exist alongside increasing food imports in the developing countries. Net cereal imports are projected to expand from the nearly 90 million tons of 1989-1991 to some 162 million tons in 2010; and the aggregate cereal self-sufficiency ratio to decline from 92 percent to 90 percent. Although the largest increases are foreseen for the Near East and North Africa (33 million tons) and Latin America and the Caribbean (15 million tons), only a small number of countries in these regions currently face serious foreign exchange shortages.

9. The nearly doubling in the net cereal trade deficit (from 27 to 50 million tons) foreseen for Africa, on the other hand, is more ominous given the precarious balance of payments situation in many of the countries in the region and the unfavourable prospects for many of them, especially those that must continue to finance their growing food import requirements from agricultural export earnings.

10. The above prospects for the protracted incidence of undernutrition for hundreds of millions would be the likely consequence of a "business as usual" approach. To the contrary, all efforts must be mobilized to reduce the incidence of undernutrition and malnutrition as fast and on as broad a geographical scope as possible, so as to achieve by the year 2010 a better outcome than forecast in the AT2010 study.

11. The additional amount of food that would be required to increase the per caput consumption of the projected 700 to 800 million undernourished to the level of average requirements for a healthy life is small relative to the requirements of world populations. Therefore the issue is not only whether the world as a whole could produce such additional amounts of food, but even more how to ensure that the countries with the largest concentration of undernourished improve the access to food for all. This would require substantial increases in food import capacity, international food assistance, incomes and food production in those countries projected to have low food supplies and high undernutrition by the year 2010. For the developing countries in this class, per caput food supplies are projected to be 2 360 calories in 2010. If none of them were to have less than 2 700 calories by then (which, assuming current income and food assistance distributions, would bring the incidence of undernutrition of the developing countries to a more moderate 6 percent, or 330 million people), their production would need to grow at 3.5 percent rather than the projected 2.7 percent annually. This would require a 10-12 percent increase in the world production growth rate from the level that is currently projected to 2010 (1.8 percent) to 2.0 percent annually. But where the additional food would come from is of greater importance. For those countries and regions with high rates of undernourishment, the task would represent a great challenge both for these countries and for the world community. For example, if the food were to come from the region itself, African production growth would have to be at 4.0 percent per annum for 20 years, notwithstanding increased commercial or concessionary imports, instead of 2.0 percent during 1970­1990 and 2.9 percent projected to the year 2010. Such a target may not be sustainable, economically or environmentally.

12. Raising world food production, primarily where natural conditions make it compatible with sustainability of the natural resource base; ensuring satisfaction at moderate cost of the growing food needs; raising and distributing incomes to enable the largest numbers to provide for their food needs; providing food assistance to poor and vulnerable population groups; and ensuring stability of food supplies and access, are the objectives which all countries, regions and the international community, have to strongly pursue to prevent dire predictions from materializing.


1. Overall food security situation

13. Since 1980, the population of Africa has risen by 53 percent, while food production is about 45 percent higher. Food imports, excluding fish, are about 50 percent higher while food exports have risen by one-fourth. Net cereal imports rose from about 17 million tons in 1979-1981 to 25 million tons in 1988-90. The food aid component of total cereal imports ranged from 10 to 40 percent in most countries during 1971-1992. Food supplies, measured by calories available per caput/day, are about the same on average as they were 15 years ago, but lower in 22 of the LIFDCs.

14. Growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has averaged 1.9 percent since the early 1980s, or about a 1 percent decline per annum in per caput terms. While several countries did improve per caput incomes, the declines in many others stemmed both from slow economic expansion and very high population rates, averaging 2.9 percent. The labour force in the region increased by 2.5 percent per annum, and the economically active population in agriculture by 1.6 percent.

15. Total merchandise exports have risen by an average 1.8 percent since the early 1980s and imports by 2.8 percent. As a result, the overall trade balance has moved from a US$7.7 billion surplus to a US$8.6 billion deficit in 1993.

16. Economic prospects for the coming 15 years are expected to improve in relation to the past, with modest gains, forecast at about 0.7 percent yearly, in per caput GDP. Food production growth is projected to accelerate to 2.8 percent, but this would only mean that per caput food production would stop falling. The region's food import requirements are expected to further increase, with net cereal imports forecast to reach nearly 50 million tons by 2010. The growing food import and food aid requirements of the region give rise to concern, in view of the current prospects for a tightening in markets and reduced stocks, particularly of cereals, and the consequent negative effects on import prices and food aid availability in the years to come.

Adequacy and stability of food supplies at the national level

17. Current estimates indicate that approximately 35 percent of the region's population, or some 217 million people, are currently chronically undernourished - 213 million of whom are in LIFDCs.

18. Without underplaying the importance of distributional issues, it must be stressed that a major reason for this situation are the low levels of per caput daily dietary energy supplies (DES) in many countries. For Africa's LIFDCs (87 percent of the region's population), the average DES amounted to 2 210 Calories in 1990-92 compared to 2 520 for all the developing countries together.

19. A recent study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) singled out three distinct population groups in rural areas of the region as the most vulnerable to food insecurity: smallholder farmers (73 percent of the rural population in the countries studied), nomadic pastoralists (13 percent of the rural population) and, cross-cutting these two groups, households headed by women (31 percent of all rural households). The predominant cause of food insecurity among smallholders is stagnating agricultural production; and among the nomadic pastoralists, the inherent low productivity of a livestock-production system that has remained out of mainstream development. The incidence of food insecurity among women-headed households was considered to be growing because of economic and social difficulties, as well as migration and civil wars.

20. On the supply side, food insecurity in much of the region is associated with both inadequate agricultural output growth arising from low levels of labour and land productivity, and pronounced instability of production. True for all the region, this has even more severe consequences in the inter-tropical areas. For the period covering 1970-92, the estimated variability of cereal production was more than 10 percent in 30 countries, and more than 20 percent in 14 others. Shortfalls in production were extremely high in some years. For example, production shortfalls in cereals was over 50 percent for Liberia during 1990 to 1992, close to 50 percent in the Sudan in 1987, 1989 and 1990, and over 40 percent in Botswana in 1985 to 1987 and in 1992. Moreover, production variability in the 1980s increased significantly compared to the 1970s, by as much as 80 percent for the region as a whole.

21. In view of the share of cereals in the diet (nearly 50 percent of calorie intake) and the inadequate import capacity of many countries in the region, cereal production variability contributed to instability in available food supplies, leading in turn to consumption instability. It has been estimated that in 20 countries the variability in aggregate DES increased in the 1980s; for 13 of them by over five percentage points. FAO studies report that any shortfall in human consumption of more than five percent at the national level, in terms of aggregate food supplies, could have serious nutritional consequences. Successive shortfalls of this magnitude are far from uncommon in the region.

Food emergencies

22. The number, scale and intensity of emergencies in Africa have all been increasing due to both natural disasters (especially droughts) and human-caused calamities including civil strife and conflict. Wars and related factors have become the single most serious cause of food insecurity in much of the region. For example, in the countries covered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) some 45 million people (nearly half of the population) were estimated to be subject to food insecurity in 1990. Of these, some 45 percent were classified as refugees and affected by war. In 1994, out of the world total of 32 million victims of disasters receiving relief assistance from the World Food programme (WFP), 21.5 million were living in Africa. Of these, nearly two-thirds, were the victims of human-caused disasters, distributed among West and Central Africa (4.6 million), the Horn and East Africa (3.9 million) and Southern Africa (5.6 million).

2. Food security trends, issues and outlook

Raising food production

23. FAO's projections to 2010 indicate that, while agricultural production in the years to come could expand at faster rates than in the past, gains in per caput terms are not likely unless extraordinary actions are taken to mobilize the potential at a faster pace. Of the total increase in crop production foreseen, 53 percent is expected to be due to crop yield increases, while the rest is accounted for by additional arable area (28 percent) and increased cropping intensity (19 percent).

Increasing the cropped area

24. The region's total land with crop production potential covers an estimated 1 040 million ha. FAO's World Agriculture: Towards 2010 study projects the cultivated area to expand by 18 percent and the harvested area by 33 percent, the difference accounting for some improvement in cropping intensity. Scope still exists for bringing more land under cultivation in the region, though less than the 70 percent of total land with crop production potential which has been estimated as unused in the inter-tropical zones. Much of this area is occupied by forests, human settlements and protected areas. Also, the possible exploitation of land for farming has been slow because of the constraints related to terrain and soil features in rainfed crop production systems, and the diseases that affect large areas with crop production potential. The fragility of the soil structure in many of these areas requires the adoption of new technology and farming systems, and makes the bringing of additional land into production increasingly expensive if sustainability problems are to be avoided. Also, it is well recognized that to achieve sustainable results from either land expansion or intensification of using existing resources, most countries in the region will have to consolidate land tenure institutions. Existing land use rights will need to be clarified and given support by national institutions before new farming techniques are widely adopted.

25. The success of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme, which liberated numerous river valleys from this disease in 11 countries, was an example of how disease control can enable effective use of land potential. A conservative estimate of the additional land that was made available is 8 million ha, compared with 22 million ha currently cultivated in these countries.

Increasing productivity

26. Large potential exists for increased productivity through better control of water and increasing the use of plant nutrients. Currently only about 10 million ha of land is under irrigation in Africa. While there is ample remaining potential for expanded and improved water control, there are constraints limiting the rapid exploitation of such potential. The irrigated area has expanded by about 1 percent per year over the past 15 years. By the year 2010, according to the AT2010 projections, the irrigated area in Africa will have increased by 2 million ha (or 4 percent of the total arable area). A number of factors point towards the slow-down in large-scale irrigation development in the future, including the increasingly high costs of bringing new areas under irrigation; labour constraints; and measures to avoid resource degradation problems such as waterlogging and salinity which add further to the costs of irrigation. In view of a high degree of inefficiency in water use, priority is likely to be accorded to improving on-farm efficiency rather than extending the irrigated areas. There is, however, great scope for low-investment, cost-efficient technologies to better control water and thereby increase productivity and reduce crop instability.

27. Fertilizer use, about 21 kg/ha in the region as a whole, and only 11 kg/ha in the inter-tropical areas, is concentrated in a relatively small number of countries and is very low in most of them, although in practice it is the area fertilized rather than the dressing itself that is small; a large part of cultivated land receives no mineral fertilizer. "Soil mining", the removal by plants of soil nutrients in excess of that returned to the land, is already considered to be a serious problem, and remains a critical constraint to production growth. One study suggests that in inter-tropical Africa a total of 9 million tonnes of plant nutrients were lost in 1983 and losses may reach 13 million tons by the year 2000.

28. Soil mining has implications on both production and soil conservation. Vegetative cover, which is essential to minimize soil erosion and to conserve soil moisture, depends on soil fertility. More widespread and rational usage of plant nutrients within improved management practices, such as Integrated Plant Nutrition Systems (IPNS) that optimize the contributions of organic matter and increase biological fixation, leads to reduced soil mining and thus contributes to soil conservation. How best to increase the use of IPNS and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a major policy issue, since a significant upturn in food production is not likely unless they are made accessible, both physically and economically, to a large number of smallholders in the region.

Agricultural research, improved technology and dissemination

29. Improvements in the control of water, the use of IPNS and IPM, good seeds and modern inputs as well as better management systems in food production require significant research and improved dissemination techniques. However, many countries in the the region suffer from a bias, dating back to the colonial era, when resources for agricultural research emphasized export crops at the cost of indigenous food crops. Efforts to reverse this orientation have been painfully slow. At the same time, most African staples (millet, sorghum, cassava, yams, cowpeas, bananas and plantains, and traditional vegetables) have received little attention from advanced research institutions elsewhere. As a result, Africa has lagged behind most other developing regions in generating improved varieties and technologies that are locally adaptable. Increasing research efforts in this direction is a major challenge for the future. Improvements in crops that are drought resistant and the development of diversified farming systems that can cope with insufficient and irregular rainfall are also important from the perspective of stabilizing food production.

30. There is not a wide range of off-the-shelf agricultural technology that could be immediately applicable, even with modifications, to suit local conditions in Africa. However, there is improved genetic material for a range of ecological situations and there is substantial evidence that food crops respond very favourably to both IPNS and IPM. Gaps of 60-100 percent between experimental yields and farm yields are not uncommon; but such gaps are unlikely to be closed appreciably without addressing a large number of components that make the technology attractive and accessible to a low-resource producer. The latter includes appropriate macro- and sectoral policies that provide adequate incentives for an average smallholder to benefit from the adoption of the technology, and a supply system that makes such technology affordable.

Increasing livestock production

31. Livestock production makes an important contribution to food security and can help alleviate problems of food variability and availability in Africa. Economic stability at farm level is enhanced when animals act as a cash buffer and capital reserve, provide a hedge against inflation, and reduce the risks associated with crop products. In integrated farming systems animals add value to farm residues and wastes, and draught animals provide a renewable source of energy which is produced on the farm. Animal manure is a valuable organic fertilizer and an important fuel either directly or when processed in biogas digesters.

32. Livestock production and development is, however, hampered by diseases. Epidemics with high potential for transboundary spread regularly ravage livestock throughout Africa. Rinderpest is the most devastating, despite recent progress in controlling it. The tse-tse flies, through the cyclical transmission of trypanosomiasis to both humans and domestic animals, are another major constraint to livestock production, natural resource utilization and the pattern of settlement throughout large areas of Africa. The effective prevention of diseases is, however, possible through enhanced early warning, early and coordinated reaction and applied research. Animal disease and pest control programmes will have to be accelerated to ensure food security.

Improving and stabilizing food consumption through trade

33. Trade is an indispensable complement to enhancing and stabilizing food consumption at a lower cost. However, the environment for exports from the region, heavily dependent on earnings from a few primary commodities, has deteriorated considerably since the early 1980s. The index of Africa's agricultural terms of trade has fallen from 100 in 1980 to 64 in 1991, indicating a severe reduction in the purchasing power of its agricultural exports. This sharp decline reflected mainly a fall in the prices of key agricultural commodity exports; the prices of some mineral and forestry products held up better. By 1992, the real export prices of coffee and cocoa had fallen 69 percent from the beginning of the 1980s, palm oil by 49 percent, sisal and cotton by 47 percent.

34. In 1994 and 1995 the international prices of several of the main commodities exported by the region rose sharply, bringing about significant gains for the countries exporting those commodities. However, these price surges reflected primarily transient factors, i.e. weather-related production shortfalls, coinciding with low levels of stocks and supply adjustments to earlier poor market conditions. Indeed, the price boom has already shown signs of halting and in some cases of reversal.

35. The long-term fall in real prices partly reflected cost-reducing technological change (mainly taking place in other regions), changes in tariff and non-tariff barriers in some of the main import markets, the low-income elasticity of demand for commodities exported by Africa in most of the major import markets, and the widespread adoption of policies by countries in the region to reduce the direct and indirect taxation of export crops. Devaluation and lower commodity taxation have favoured the production of traditionally exported crops even though world prices for these commodities were falling. The 50 percent devaluation of the CFA franc in early 1994, a significant event in this context, had the notable feature of coinciding with an exceptional period of rising international commodity prices. In general, however, as many developing countries in Africa have been undertaking export-oriented structural adjustment reforms, this has acted to increase supplies in aggregate and to depress prices. Even in the cases where Africa's exports have increased in volume, export earnings in real terms have declined.

36. The outlook, however, is somewhat better for commodity prices, compared to the disaster of the 1980s. Recent projections show that both oil and non-oil commodity prices are expected to rise. Coffee, cocoa and tea prices are projected to increase by the year 2000; however, beverage prices are unlikely to reach the level attained in 1989, let alone the peak level reached in 1984. Prices of agricultural products such as cotton, rubber, and timber are also expected to rise. However, securing sustained gains from international commodity markets will in the future require new approaches and strategies because of the changing structure and conduct of international commodity markets.

37. Given the poor prospects for trade growth with the developed countries and the massive undernutrition in the region, steps should be taken to enhance food trade within and between the countries in the region. FAO studies suggest that for the African developing countries, the import bills of the main agricultural commodities could rise by the year 2000 from their level in the late 1980s by US$5.5 billion plus US$0.1 billion due to reduced export subsidies. Export earnings from the main agricultural commodities (but excluding many important ones) could rise by US$3.2 billion less the loss of potential preferences of US$0.2 billion. By any interpretation this is not a very satisfactory outcome. If allowance is made for the other agricultural commodities, assuming their values to grow as for the commodities covered, African developing countries would move from an export surplus of US$1 billion in 1987-89 (on an f.o.b. basis) to a deficit of US$500 million in the year 2000, including inter alia the effects of the Uruguay Round.

Food security, external debt and aid

38. Africa's total external debt was estimated by the World Bank at about US$289 billion in 1993 as compared to US$84 billion in 1980. The ratio of debt service to export earnings had increased to 23 percent by 1993, from 7.4 percent in 1980. Although Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa rose from about US$14 billion in the early 1980s to around US$23­25 billion yearly during 1990-94, private financial flows (bank loans, export credits and foreign direct investment) have declined substantially. Foreign direct investment, and with it access to technological know-how, is still very low, with the bulk of such investment going to oil- and mineral-exporting countries.

39. Evidence suggests that resource inflows have been barely sufficient for the majority of countries in the region to make up for the terms of trade losses, let alone to provide for new investment. An estimate shows that 21 of the 25 countries reviewed experienced terms of trade losses, the average decline being close to 30 percent, equivalent to about 8 percent of GDP. In six of these 21 countries, ODA flows covered their terms of trade losses, in ten countries ODA flows offset terms of trade losses only partially, while five countries suffered from both terms of trade losses and declines in ODA flows. The World Bank's long-term perspective study estimates that the region would need about 9 percent of its GDP to be added from external sources during the 1990s in order to attain a growth rate of 1-2 percent per caput. But even this is considered to be a conservative estimate.

Policy framework for improving food security

40. Policy reforms in most of the countries of the region are being conducted largely within the framework of structural adjustment programmes. The rate of success of such programmes is the subject of considerable debate. A recent World Bank study concludes that improvements in the domestic macroeconomic environment explained much of the economic growth in the countries of the region in the recent past. Nevertheless, the general picture is one of major difficulties in pursuing adjustment and stabilisation measures, a heavy social cost in the initial phases of their implementation, and dismal macroeconomic performances in most countries. A major lesson from experience with structural adjustment programmes is the necessity to include food security safety nets as part of the programme.

41. In contrast to earlier approaches to reform, that focused primarily on price incentives, the most recent approaches emphasize the reduction of resource constraints so as to make production capable of responding to market signals. This includes agricultural infrastructure, interventions for poverty alleviation, improvements in education and health, and measures to deal with environmental and natural resource degradation. Since these investments are largely of a public goods nature, this emphasis reinforces the effective role that a State ought to play in development, though in a different form - namely, away from direct intervention in production and distribution and towards the provision of public goods and the creation of an enabling environment for competitive growth.

Safety nets for vulnerable groups

42. The scope for food security actions in Africa is enormous, both to meet the needs of the chronically food insecure and for emergency relief. Although direct food security interventions targeted towards the poorest and most food insecure are the most cost-effective ones, in practice, many national food assistance systems also benefit the rich and the urban population rather than the poor, rural and marginalized households. This has increased the political support for continuing such interventions at substantial costs, estimated in some countries to amount to 10-20 percent of GDP. Targeting is difficult, but not impossible. There are many successful examples of effective targeting including that which is based on geographical criteria and on selected commodities consumed by the poor.

3. The World Food Summit and regional goals for food security

43. The World Food Summit (WFS) draft Policy Statement calls on all parties to reaffirm their commitment to policies that will ensure the availability and stability of adequate food supplies as well as access to an adequate diet for all. The WFS draft Action Plan stresses the need for each country to choose its own strategy for attaining food security since individual circumstances vary so widely.

44. In Africa, the severity of food insecurity calls for strategies that address a wide array of problems of a general developmental and sectoral nature. Unless adequate policy measures are taken, with the utmost commitment and urgency on the part of national governments and the international community, the already disastrous situation facing many countries risks reaching unmanageable dimensions. In the absence of extraordinary measures to accelerate the reduction in undernutrition, all but one of the 36 countries presently having more than 20 percent of their populations undernourished would still remain in this category by 2010.

45. In order to bring the food intake in 1990-92 of every undernourished person in Africa to his or her energy requirement level, an increase of about 637 calories per undernourished person would have been required. This represents, assuming a 60 percent cereal content of total calorie intake, an additional 8.4 million tons of cereals, i.e. approximately 10 percent of the region's annual cereal output levels in recent years. For the year 2010, given current forecasts of undernutrition, the required incremental calorie needs per undernourished person would be 616 calories, representing in aggregate 12 million tons of cereals. These estimates provide an illustrative order of magnitude of the minimum additional volumes of food that would be required to cover the regional "food gap" in the present and prospective undernourished populations. However, since it would be unrealistic to assume that the above increases in food supply would accrue exclusively to the undernourished, a significant reduction of their unsatisfied food needs would involve, in fact, far greater volumes of additional food.

46. At the basis of any significant reduction in poverty-related food insecurity in Africa must be a revival of economic growth, and agricultural growth in priority, in view of the high dependence of most of the region's economies on agriculture. A prosperous and productive agricultural sector would be the driving economic force providing food, employment, savings and markets for goods from the industrial sector. The region has considerable untapped potential, as noted earlier, for increasing agricultural and food production. Exploiting this potential should be the number one priority, and calls for concrete agricultural and food policy initiatives.


[The Conference is invited to review the following text and may wish to recommend to the Director-General its transmission to the Committee on World Food Security as the Regional contribution to the World Food Summit Plan of Action]

Draft contribution of the Africa Regional Conference to the
Plan of Action of the World Food Summit

47. Africa, which counts for more than half of the total number of Low-Income Food-Deficit countries (LIFDCs), is the one region where the food security situation has deteriorated, rather than improved, over the past decades. Aside from the growing numbers of chronically food insecure people, which threaten to account for about one-third of the population of the region in 2010, the number of refugees and displaced persons, as a result of both man-made and natural factors, is growing. Immediate emergency needs are absorbing a considerable amount of national and international resources at the expense of longer-term development.

48. In order to reduce the extent of undernutrition in Africa much below what is currently forecast for the year 2010, a major effort must be made to increase overall food supplies as well as access to food through increased incomes and food assistance. To this effect strong action is needed to improve the general macroeconomic, institutional and infrastructural environment, with an emphasis on food and agricultural development, so as to raise levels of food production significantly above rates of population growth. The achievement of such higher levels of production growth will require significant gains in labour and land productivity, given the physical and environmental constraints to area expansion and the high rates of population growth and urbanization. Efforts will also be needed to enhance fisheries resource management and production, given the significant contribution of fish to food security in the region. At the same time, urgent measures will be needed to build the infrastructure and marketing systems that would enable a regular flow of affordable food to urban and rural populations.

49. To achieve food security for the continent, however, increases in food production must necessarily be complemented by efforts to ensure adequate levels of food imports. This implies, on the one hand, determined efforts to enhance the export-earning capacity of the countries of the region to allow for the financing of commercial food imports and, on the other, a readiness by the international community to provide sufficient levels of food aid. Access to food must be improved through overall economic development with a particular emphasis on rural development, but food access to poor and vulnerable groups must also be secured through special programmes.

50. It is estimated that, for a growth in primary agricultural production of 2.9 percent annually during the period to the year 2010, as currently forecast by FAO, an investment of approximately US$10 billion (1993 dollars) annually will be required. With this rate of growth only seven countries would have over 2 700 calories in 2010, all of which have already reached this target or nearly so. In order to raise average calorie intakes to 2 700 in the remaining 35 countries, and taking account of an accompagnying increase in imports, their production growth rate would have to accelerate from 3.0 percent, as currently forecast, to 4.5 percent yearly (and from 2.9 to 4.5 percent for the region as a whole). This would imply annual investment requirements doubling, from US$10 to US$20 billion, in the region. While such growth rates would raise immense difficulties, they give a measure of the efforts that would be needed commensurate to a significant betterment of food security in Africa.

51. Within the framework of the global Plan of Action of the World Food Summit, the priority, regionally-specific actions to achieve accelerated progress towards food security in Africa are as follows:

Enabling political and economic environment for food security

Basis for action

52. The region has been plagued by political tensions, wars, civil unrest and refugee problems that have been major factors of food insecurity. Achieving food security objectives will crucially depend on the ability of African leaders to bring an end to, or at least significantly reduce, such problems as well as ensuring stable and participatory political institutions. In situations of violent conflict, safe passage and the refusal to use food as a political weapon are conditions of the right to food for the threatened populations.

53. Market-oriented systems of macroeconomic management have been widely adopted throughout the region, largely within the context of stabilization and structural adjustment programmes introduced with the assistance of international lending institutions. However, the degree of progress in implementing reforms has been uneven, many countries have encountered major difficulties in reducing state intervention and liberalizing markets, and the initial process of reform has had negative repercussions particularly on poor food producers and consumers, without in many cases adequate safety nets. Furthermore, the record of macroeconomic achievements has been often disappointing.


54. a) Ensure peace, stability and social participation to achieve food security in the region;
b) Improve the economic environment for food security through macroeconomic stability and increased reliance on markets and private agents, as preconditions for efficient resource reallocation in favour of agriculture and accelerated and self-sustaining growth and rural development;
c) Pursue and intensify human-centred economic and sectoral reform that seeks stabilization and growth along with social and environmental objectives.

Actions to be taken

55. a) Ensure the participation of all segments of society in civil life through participatory and stable political institutions;
b) Mobilize national, regional and international initiatives to prevent conflicts and to resolve emergency crises;
c) Accompany market-oriented economic reforms with social safety nets to ensure access to food and, more generally, protect the most negatively affected groups;
d) Identify and eliminate policies that discriminate against the agricultural and food sector;
e) Further reduce distortive public intervention in marketing and prices;
f) Provide market incentives for private sector investment and productive activities in agriculture;
g) Assign public resources in appropriate proportion to ensure the needed priority for adequate infrastructure and support services to agricultural and rural development;
h) Secure external resources for supporting reforms.

Improving food access to poor and vulnerable groups

Basis for action

56. There is major scope for interventions assuring access to food for poor and vulnerable groups both in urban areas and rural areas. Many national food systems in Africa do not at present ensure adequate protection for the poorest and most vulnerable groups particularly in the countryside, but tend to favour the rich and the urban populations. In addition, policies of generalized, non-targeted implicit or explicit food subsidies in favour of urban areas tend to be expensive. Indeed, experience has shown that the effectiveness of generalized food subsidies in ensuring an adequate diet for those in need is questionable (everybody benefits from such subsidies, they are distributionally regressive, they become expensive to maintain and, depending on the level of the subsidy, they may be a distorting factor in the economy). Cost-effective income transfer schemes are needed so that the limited resources that are made available reach those in need.


57. Ensure access to adequate food also for the poorest and most vulnerable groups, both in rural and urban areas at a sustainable cost to society.

Actions to be taken

58. a) Identify vulnerable and food insecure groups in both rural and urban areas (such as smallholder farmers, nomadic pastoralists, households short of labour, households headed by women, the elderly and the disabled) and target direct food security interventions at these groups;
b) Implement measures to increase production and the self-reliance of vulnerable groups;
c) Implement employment and food-for-work schemes using the experience of similar schemes elsewhere within and outside the region.

Ensuring adequate and timely food aid and emergency assistance

Basis for action

59. Even with the favourable scenarios for economic and agricultural development and expansion of domestic food production, export earnings and incomes, in the short to medium term food aid will remain indispensable for food security on the African continent, both to counter emergency situations and the effect of seasonality on food supply and to ensure adequate supplies overall in domestic markets. In spite of this, in recent years, food aid deliveries by developed countries have been contracting.


60. a) Maintain adequate quantitative levels of food aid interventions to counter emergency situations and the effects of seasonality and to ensure sufficient levels of food supply to meet the needs of poor and vulnerable groups;
b) Minimise the negative impact of food aid interventions on incentives to domestic producers.

Actions to be taken

61. a) Guarantee and provide sufficient quantities of food aid to meet the needs of importing countries both for emergency assistance and to ensure adequate levels of supply on domestic markets, particularly in favour of vulnerable groups;
b) Promote triangular food aid operations, as appropriate, thereby contributing towards stimulating food production nationally and on the continent;
c) Improve the design of food aid programmes in support of food security objectives;
d) Devise national and international programmes for emergency preparedness and relief-to-development strategies at the national, regional and international levels;
e) Strengthen early warning systems at the national and regional levels.

Enhancing domestic food supply capacity

Basis for action

62. Africa suffers from food insecurity most extensively of all developing regions, and 42 countries in the region belong to the LIFDC group. One root cause for this is the low productivity in food and agricultural production, but at the same time most countries have the physical potential for raising their food production significantly. Given the difficulty of reliably financing external sources of food, an urgent need exists to mobilize the domestic capacity to increase food supply quickly, especially in areas with high potential in terms of productivity, sustainable resources and marketing, to meet the requirements of rising populations in urban and food deficit areas.


63. a) To increase rapidly food supplies by at least 90 percent by the year 2010 for the region as a whole, with priority given to staple foods, particularly from areas that have good potential with favourable agro-ecological conditions and with favourable infrastructure for distribution and marketing;
b) To launch, by the year 2000 in all 42 LIFDCs of the region, strategically-conceived programmes for the above purposes so as to develop and expand the centres of reliable domestic food supply;
c) To enhance sustainable management of natural resources in food and agricultural production through adoption of farming systems and production practices adapted to high potential and other areas.

Actions to be taken

At the national level
64. a) Formulate and implement strategies and programmes for rapidly increasing food and agricultural production in selected areas with high potential for cost-effective productivity improvements in a sustainable way, especially through an appropriate combination of specialization and diversification in food production; by the year 2010 high potential rainfed areas should be expanded by some 20-30 percent and those under irrigation by at least 20 percent, with the emphasis on low-cost, small-scale, farmer-managed water control systems; reclaim progressively areas suitable for agricultural production, especially in 5.6 million km2 of the moist savanna, by control and eradication of diseases, such as river blindness, trypanosomiasis and malaria; improve fertility of suitable tropical soils through large-scale rock phosphate and/or lime application;
b) Increase the yield levels of food crop production, especially for staple crops and where high potential resources can be sustainably mobilized, through the adoption of more productive technologies adapted to improved farming systems. In particular, raise cereal yields by 50 percent or more; expand the availability to farmers of quality seeds and planting materials, particularly cereals, roots and tubers, plantains and pulses. By the year 2010, improved quality seed should supply at least 15 percent of farmers' requirements (presently about 5 percent); enhance and preserve soil fertility and plant nutrition, including the promotion of integrated plant nutrition technologies;
c) Upgrade the effectiveness of water management. In particular, enhance the efficiency of existing water control systems by 20 percent, through their modernization and rehabilitation, control of salinity and waterlogging and improved on-farm water management by farmers;
d) Develop and introduce farming systems and technologies adapted to sustainable production in rainfed areas, including better water control, water conservation and soil moisture management by farmers; use of more drought and disease resistant varieties of food crops to ensure a stable increase in production and to reduce instability;
e) Develop and disseminate management practices for the protection and conservation of land and water resources, including appropriate cropping systems and integration of forestry and trees against desertification;
f) Increase the productivity of livestock-based food (by at least 3-4 percent per year for meat and by 3 percent or more for milk) through better integration of livestock and crop production, veterinary care, breeds improvement, and improve animal nutrition through more sustainable and effective management systems for grazing land, including the production of higher-quality fodders;
g) Reduce food losses in the entire chain of production, marketing and processing, including post-harvest operations, through more effective and sustainable practices, beginning with IPM at the production level and throughout all levels;
h) Strengthen adaptive agricultural research and extension and dissemination services to provide appropriate technologies for the variety of production systems, especially to enhance production stability under rainfed, low-input systems; strengthen production support services and rural finance mechanisms at the field level;
i) Expand substantially fish production and supply to meet the increase in demand, which is expected to nearly double to 8 million tons by 2010, especially from aquaculture and inland fisheries. Improve the resource management of marine fisheries;
j) Strengthen government capacity for planning, implementation, coordination and monitoring of policies and programmes for rapid and sustainable expansion in food production and supply.

At sub-regional and regional levels
65. a) Expand and intensify, in collaboration with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres located in the region, cooperation in the exchange of appropriate technologies and approaches to food and agricultural production;
b) Strengthen collaboration through joint programmes addressed to specific actions such as transboundary plant pests and animal diseases and early warning systems;
c) Expand cooperation in the joint management of shared resources, especially shared water resources in common river basins and lakes, and in fishery resources;
d) Improve and ensure maintenance of trans-border transportation infrastructure; collaborate in the development of communication and logistic infrastructure.

Enhancing export earning capacity to meet import needs

Basis for action

66. The need to revitalize the export sector, along with efforts to diversify its base, is particularly compelling since: the region's financial requirements for meeting import needs, for subsistence and development, are rapidly growing; the outlook for international financial assistance and food aid is less than promising, indicating growing pressure for locally-based import capacity in the years ahead; market prospects are somewhat better for several major commodities exported by the region than during the disastrous past decade. At the same time, the liberalization of international markets resulting from the conclusion of the Uruguay Round may provide new opportunities for agricultural exporters. The policy emphasis on agricultural exports, however, should not be detrimental, but complementary, to the food crop development effort.


67. Restore efficiency, dynamism and competitiveness to traditional export sectors, while also diversifying the export base, as a means of raising incomes particularly in rural areas, and of meeting growing import bills.

Actions to be taken

68. a) Pursue opportunities for enhancing regional trade, including: search for areas of complementarity, and harmonization of support, taxation and marketing policies; cooperation in removing trade barriers across regional borders; development of collective strategies for global trade negotiations to ensure fair access to world markets and recognition of the need for special treatment for the poor, agricultural trade-dependent countries of the region;
b)) Provide infrastructural and services support for the increased efficiency, reduced costs and enhanced competitiveness of agricultural export crop production and marketing;
c) Promote export diversification by incorporating both non-traditional high-value products and value-added products through agro-processing;
d) Take advantage of the new opportunities that may arise from the liberalization of international markets following the Uruguay Round;
e) Explore the development of exports to emerging markets where economies are rapidly expanding and/or per caput consumption of products exported by the region is low;
f) Develop market outlook and information systems that provide accurate signals to farmers and exporters;
g) Remove infrastructural, institutional and information obstacles to the transmission of changes in world commodity prices to producers of export crops;
h) Introduce market-oriented mechanisms of price and revenue stabilization including forward and future contracts, option contracts and swaps;
i) Establish national food control programmes to ensure the quality and safety of food sold in the region both for domestic consumption and for export.

Accelerating agricultural and rural development

Basis for action

69. Given the extensive nature of food insecurity and the severe resource constraints in many areas it is necessary to complement actions aimed directly at increasing food production with efforts at more broad-based sustainable and participatory rural development. Whereas in high-potential areas rural development will have a strong agricultural production-oriented focus, in low-potential and marginal areas there is a need for economic diversification and for an emphasis on preservation of fragile resource bases.


70. a) To expand the effective participation of farmers and producers in the agricultural and rural development process;
b) To improve self-reliant food security throughout rural areas through increasing rural incomes;
c) To promote and facilitate broad-based and more self-reliant rural development, including improvements in infrastructure, better marketing arrangements, access to improved technologies and supporting services and inputs, and more secure land tenure arrangements.

Actions to be taken

At the national level
71. a) Promote and implement agricultural and rural development schemes targeted at increasing on-farm and off-farm employment, and infrastructure for improved services and marketing;
b) Devise financial and participatory mechanisms for maintenance and repair of existing rural physical infrastructure;
c) Improve the land tenure and other property security of farmers and producers, especially that of poor farmers and women farmers, not only for social equity but also as incentives for better productivity and towards the sustainable management of the natural resources;
d) Enhance self-reliant participation of farmers in the planning and implementation of development activities at the local community level, by promoting participatory organizations of farmers and producers, particularly smallholders and women farmers;
e) Monitor and review the environmental effects of agricultural and rural development, and incorporate lessons learnt in developing appropriate strategies and programmes.

At sub-regional and regional levels

72. Exchange and transfer lessons learnt on common problems in an effort to enhance agricultural and rural development among countries in the region.

Enhancing human development and social participation

Basis for action

73. The region is experiencing high rates of population growth which has led to growing pressure for agricultural production expansion, increasing stress on natural resources and greater demands for social services and human development resources. The region's levels of general education, access to information and health care have remained low. Inadequate structures for education and training hinder overall development and food security at all levels of activity, from basic farming to policy design and implementation. Large segments of the population have remained economically and culturally marginalized. Women, in particular, play a major role in agricultural production and household food security, but have inadequate access to work, training and production factors.


74. a) Reduce the profound problems of overall and rural poverty, unemployment and social exclusion affecting the region, in accordance with the principles defined by the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development, as basic prerequisites for achieving food security;
b) Integrate population concerns into development strategies so as to maintain rates of population growth at levels compatible with possibilities for sustainably expanding production and ensuring the well-being of every person;
c) Strengthen human resources for development and food security by improving education and health standards and ensure an adequate role and empowerment of women in decisional and operational activities.

Actions to be taken

At the national level
75. a) Develop national population policies consistent with the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Population;
b) Reorient the allocation of resources for health, education and social services to redress the relative neglect of the rural areas;
c) Promote broad participation in the formulation and implementation of food-security- related programmes and actions, through decentralization, transparency and resources for strengthening the abilities of civil society as well as in the development of local community organizations and activities;
d) Strengthen policies and programmes to achieve the equal participation of women in all aspects of social life, particularly those contributing to the achievement of food security, and improve their access to all resources required to this end;
e) Reorient and design rural development policy and programmes to support women's health, education and financial needs as primary agricultural producers.

At the sub-regional and regional level
76. a) Strengthen regional cooperation as a means of understanding the implications of trans-border migrations;
b) Create the conditions for a voluntary repatriation of refugees to their countries of origin and their reintegration into their societies and activities in conditions of safety and food access adequacy.

Responsibilities for implementing priority actions

77. National governments have the primary responsibility for creating the conditions required for food security in their countries: first and foremost peace, and stable, participatory institutions, with the rapid abatement of situations of armed conflict and civil unrest that have been severe causes of food insecurity in much of the region. National governments are also responsible for creating an economic and social environment conducive to fast, sustainable and equitable growth, in which agricultural and rural development must play a central role. More specifically, national governments will achieve food security through strong policy commitment to the priority actions outlined above. This will require the building of appropriate structures and mechanisms and the involvement, not only of all relevant public entities but also of the private sector and of civil society in general.

78. The governments also have shared responsibilities with other countries within and outside the region, international and non-governmental organizations, in the pursuance of food security goals.

Responsibilities at the regional and sub-regional level

79. The governments of the region should promote cooperation among themselves in:
a) Reinforcing regional cooperation mechanisms in agriculture and food policies for food security, including the strengthening of African intergovernmental organizations and research institutions;
b) Promoting the inter-exchange of technologies for food and agricultural production, especially those applicable to rapid development in high potential areas, including the establishment of technical cooperation networks;
c) Sharing experiences, technologies and resources for the development of sustainable systems of food and agricultural production in rainfed areas;
d) Instituting joint programmes to combat transboundary plant pests and animal diseases;
e) Extending the scope of national information and early warning systems into regional networks that provide crop and market outlook information;
f) Expanding cooperation in joint management of shared resources, particularly shared water resources and fisheries resources, inter alia through the strengthening of the regional intergovernmental organizations;
g) Strengthening transborder transportation and other infrastructures.

Responsibilities at the international level
80. The international community and its institutions will provide support to national governments and relevant institutions in:
a) Formulating and implementing macroeconomic and sectoral policies that improve the economic environment for food security;
b) Securing adequate financial support to food-deficit countries in the region that face serious difficulties in financing their food needs;
c) Planning, executing and reviewing programmes and projects for rapidly expanding food production and supply capacity in high-potential areas; accelerating rural development; and ensuring sustainable use of natural resources for food and agricultural production;
d) Strengthening early warning systems at both the regional and international level;
e) Implementing the United Nations Convention on Desertification;
f) Guaranteeing and maintaining adequate levels and the timely delivery of food aid to counter emergency situations and to ensure adequate supplies at the national level and seek to improve the design of food aid programmes in support of food security;
g) Assist in devising, through appropriate cooperation with national governments, programmes for emergency preparedness and relief-to-development strategies;
h) Implement the Uruguay Round Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries.

Expected role of civil society

81. The policy emphasis on economic liberalization and a reduced role of the State in marketing and price formation implies a correspondingly greater role of the private sector in activities relating to food security including investment, agricultural production, marketing and trade as well as the provision of inputs. Then new emphasis on broad-based development implies greater involvement of previously marginalized segments of society, in particular women, smallholders and the poor.

82. In particular, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and interest groups have important roles to play in:
a) Technology transfer, investment and skills development through commercial activities;
b) Promotion of, and compliance with, major international agreements such as the International Plant Protection Convention;
c) Sustainable resources management; in particular the private sector plays a key role in investing in irrigation development and water control;
d) Providing farmers with inputs, services and marketing;
e) Undertaking private investment and commercial activities for ensuring adequate and stable food supplies to urban areas;
f) Promoting and supporting programmes catering for the development of rainfed areas. Non-governmental organizations, in particular, have many advantages in working with local populations towards their participatory development for food security.

83. Society at large, including community institutions and local government and non-governmental organizations, has the responsibility for ensuring the involvement and empowerment of women in decisional and operational activities of importance in achieving food security.

World and regional indicators of food security
INDICATORWorld DevelopedDeveloping LIFDCAll LIFDC
Food Security Index1 1991-93

Dietary Energy Supply (DES) calories/caput/day 1990-92

Chronically undernourished

number in 1990-92 (millions)

number in 2010 (millions)

percentage of population 1990-92

percentage of population 2010

change of number undernourished 1990-92 to 2010 (%)


1995 (million)

2010 (million)

annual growth rate 1995-2010 (%)

Dependency Ratio2 (%)



Active population annual growth rate 1995-20102 (%)

Share of agriculture in active population2 (%)



Composition of Food Supplies 1990-92

Dietary Energy Supplies from:

cereals (%)

roots and tubers (%)

animal products (%)

others (%)

Dietary Protein Supplies from:

cereals (%)

animal products (%)

other (%)

Food Production and Trade

Crop Production Index 1990 (1979-81=100)

Cereal Self-sufficiency 1989-91 (%)3

Food Import Dependency Ratio 1988-904

Food Import Value5




2 720






5 759

7 150



















3 350






1 291

1 405



















2 520






4 468

5 746



















2 450






3 664

4 695



















2 300







1 098



















2 210


























World and regional indicators of food security (cont.)
INDICATORWorld DevelopedDeveloping LIFDCAll LIFDC
Food Import Volume5



Food Import Unit Value5



Share of food in total merchandise import value5

Share 1969-71 (%)

Share 1989-91 (%)

Food import value/Total merchandise export value5

1989-91 (%)

Per caput food aid 1992-946 (kg of cereals)

Agricultural productivity

Cereal yield 1988-90 (MT/ha)

Cereal yield, irrigated land 1988-90 (MT/ha)

Cereal production variability 1970-19907 (%)

Irrigated/arable land 1993 (%)

Irrigated area/irrigation potential (%)

Fertilizer consumption per ha of arable land

kg of nutrient 1970

kg of nutrient 1990

Agricultural labour productivity change 1970-19908 (%)

Animal production in total agricultural production 19908 (%)

% of arid/semi arid lands

Percentage of forested areas 1990

Deforestation 1981-1990 (% per annum) 9

Fuelwood & charcoal in total energy consumption 1993 (%)

Number of refugees 1995 (millions)






































































































































... Not available.

1 Country indexes weighted by population size. High FSI>85, Medium FSI 75-85, Low 65-75, Critically low FSI<65.

2 UN Population Estimates and Projections, 1992 revision.

3 (Production/(Production+Imports-Exports))*100; trade includes processed products but not beer; production and trade in volume.

4 Country ratios weighted by population size; all food commodities aggregated in calorie terms.

5 Based on the Food Import Index figures; food excluding fish; "1980" stands for the base period 1979-81.

6 Per caput calculation based on the population of the recipient countries only.

7 Standard deviation of the relative deviations from exponential trend.

8 Based on the Production Index aggregates.

9 "AFRICA" estimate includes South Africa.