Chronic underinvestment in agriculture is a key cause of the widespread hunger experienced in 2022, according to the Oxfam report. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS.
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Interpress service

Africa is home to a quarter of the world’s total agricultural land. Yet, in the 12 months African leaders pledged to improve food security on the continent, over 20 million more people have been pushed into “severe hunger”.

Today, “a fifth of Africa’s population (or 278 million) is malnourished, and 55 million of its children under the age of five are crippled by severe malnutrition.” Oxfam International adds the above information to his report: Over 20 million more people hungry in Africa’s ‘food year’.

“The hunger facing the African people today is a direct result of inadequate political choices…” said Fati N’Zi-Hassane, Oxfam’s Africa director.

Chronic underinvestment

The report further explains that chronic underinvestment in agriculture is a key cause of the widespread hunger experienced in 2022.

Specifically, it adds, the majority of African governments (48 out of 54) reportedly spend an average of 3.8% of their budgets on agriculture – some spend as little as 1%.

“Nearly three-quarters of these governments have cut their agricultural spending since 2019, failing to meet their Malabo commitments to invest at least 10% of their budget on agriculture.”

In 2014, African leaders signed Malabo The Declaration, which stipulated that African governments must spend at least 10% of their budget on agriculture and support for farmers.

Politicians double military spending

In contrast, “African governments spent almost double the budget (6.4%) on arms last year. Ongoing conflicts, particularly in the Sahel and Central Africa, have continued to destroy farmland, displace people and fuel hunger.”

Additionally, “exacerbating climate-induced droughts and floods, and a global increase in fuel and fertilizer prices, made food unaffordable for millions of people. In 2022 alone, food inflation rose by double digits in all but ten African countries.”

No access to nearby markets

As the 36th African Union Summit held in February 2023, focusing on intracontinental free trade, “millions of smallholder farmers, who are important food producers on the continent, cannot reach markets in neighboring countries due to poor infrastructure and high intra-African tariffs.”

In other words, “many African nations find it cheaper to import food from outside the continent than from their neighbor.”
According to Oxfam:

  • As of August 2022 (the last available figure), there were 139.95 million people in 35 African countries living in “crisis or worse, acute food insecurity.” This is an increase of 17% (20.26 million people) compared to the same number a year earlier (119.69 million people).
  • South Sudan spends less than 1% of its budget on agriculture. Estimates of all agricultural expenditure in Africa are based on data from the Government Expenditure Monitor, national budgets and FAO.
  • According to CAADP Report and that FAO Crop Outlook The report estimated Africa’s cereal production in 2022 at 207.4 million tonnes, down 3.4 million tonnes from the average for the previous five years.

Fivefold increase in extreme weather events

The increasing hunger in Africa – imposed by both external and internal forces – is only part of a widespread drama.

In fact, climate change is fueling hunger for millions of people around the world. “Extreme weather events have increased fivefold in the past 50 years, destroying homes, decimating livelihoods, fueling conflict and displacement and deepening inequality,” Oxfam reports.

Hunger more than doubles

Climate change has resulted in more frequent and intense droughts, floods and heat waves. “The number of disasters has increased fivefold in the last 50 years.”

This hits low-income countries hardest, Oxfam continues, adding that the 10 countries with the highest UN appeals related to extreme weather since 2000 have seen a 123% increase in the number of people suffering extreme hunger – from 21.3 million to 47, 5 million.

These countries are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Zimbabwe. According to this data, 7 of these 10 countries are African.

Fossil fuels staggering profits

The G20 countries are among the most polluting nations in the world, together responsible for nearly 77% of carbon dioxide emissions, reports Oxfam, a global movement of people working together to end the injustices of poverty by tackling the inequality that keeps people poor.

It is extraordinary that when humanity faces this existential crisis, there is still more incentive to destroy our planet than to save lives.

“The oil and gas industry has enjoyed staggering profits while wreaking havoc on the planet – raking in US$2.8 billion per day (or more than US$1 trillion per year) over the past 50 years.”

Seismic hunger

For its part, the World Food Program (WFP) reports that the current seismic hunger crisis has been caused by a deadly combination of factors: conflict, economic shocks, climate extremes combine to create a food crisis of unprecedented proportions.

So much so that “as many as 828 million people are unsure where their next meal will come from.”

In his report’2023: Another year of extreme danger for those struggling to provide for their families,’ WFP warns that a record 349 million people in 79 countries face acute food insecurity – up from 287 million in 2021. This represents a staggering increase of 200 million people compared to levels before the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 900,000 people worldwide are struggling to survive in famine-like conditions, the world body reports, adding that this is “ten times more than five years ago, an alarmingly rapid increase.”

In short, politicians, even in the most needy and most vulnerable to staggering hunger countries, continue to attach higher relevance to spending on weapons that fuel conflict and on fuel fuels that spread climate disasters, rather than investing in saving the lives of their own people.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service