Food security is attainable in the Greater Horn of Africa

Interest around food and nutrition security has been consistent in the past few months with different reports released globally and a host of international forums in Kigali examining the trends and impact of hunger and under-nutrition.

The latest of these has been the Compact2025 meeting this week that sought to “set priorities, innovate and learn, fine-tune actions, build on successes, and synthesize sharable lessons to accelerate countries’ progress towards ending hunger and under-nutrition.”

Last month also saw Kigali host the Greater Horn of Africa climate outlook forum (GHACOF42) in which the 2015 El Niño impact assessment was presented.

The assessment indicates that, among effect in other areas, food security in the region has trebled with the number of food insecure people in the Greater Horn of Africa having risen from 7.2 million in August last year to 20.4 million in February 2016.

October last year saw the launch of the Ending Rural Hunger (ERH) project report titled, Mapping Needs and Actions for Food and Nutrition Security. The project is under the Global Economy and Development program of the Brookings Institution, which aims to support the knowledge base to inform strategic decision-making for investments and policy actions to achieve the global goal for rural food and nutrition security (FNS).

Preceding this was the July 2015 launch of the UN Food and Agriculture organisation’s (FAO) report on The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI2015) titled, Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: taking stock of uneven progress.

It does not take much to appreciate the running thread in the general theme in all of the above. But it points to an ongoing global concern over food security, where ending hunger and under-nutrition underpins the success of other UN Sustainable Development Goals that include ending extreme poverty by 2030, reducing mortality, promoting educational attainment, and generate higher quality jobs.

The ERH project report notes how ending world hunger is an ambition that has now been formally enshrined in the SDGs, and how it forms a realistic objective attainable within 15 years, requiring at least doubling the current rate of progress.

Of the 795 million people in the world who are undernourished, the reports says, perhaps three-quarters of them live in developing countries’ rural areas.

Nevertheless, despite negative showing in the Greater Horn of Africa, SOFI2015 reports that in the developing regions the prevalence of undernourishment - which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life – has declined to 12.9 percent of the population, down from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago.

On its part, shepherded by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Compact2025 showcases how Brazil dramatically cut poverty, hunger, and under-nutrition by aggressively expanding effective social protection programs and targeted nutrition interventions.

Ethiopia is another example where increased investments in agricultural productivity, productive social safety nets, and sanitation is accelerating reduction in hunger and child stunting.

Compact2025 observes that success in ending hunger and under-nutrition depends on country-owned and country-led strategies and investments. Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Bangladesh are the initial countries in the effort to accelerate their progress toward ending hunger and under-nutrition. The initiative will then scale up to include additional countries.

On the whole, hunger and under-nutrition can be defeated. The ERH project reports recent trends that offer promise. These include a trend in which distortions in global agricultural markets have fallen substantially.

Another is the observation that public and private actors are increasingly collaborating on food and nutrition security problems.

This includes new strategies for integrating smallscale farms into global value chains; sharing lessons across borders; and establishing guidelines, with essential civil society input, for responsible business investments in agriculture.

Ultimately, as the ERH project also notes, ending hunger is primarily about promoting transformational change in local food and agricultural systems. It is about more than growing enough food. It is about demand for, as well as supply of, food; quality as well as quantity; an adequate diet today and assurance of one tomorrow.