Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will the G-20 devise solutions to Africa's food problems?

About three weeks ago, members of the Great 20 developed nations, popularly known as the G-20 held their annual summit, where they agreed to triple aid meant for African nations. South Africa was the sole African representative at the summit. The event came nearly six months after thousands of the world’s population gathered in their respective cities to celebrate the International World Food Day.
It is also important to recognize the fact that one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) centers on hunger fight and poverty eradication. Leaders who attended the Millennium Summit 2000 (on behalf of their respective citizens) committed themselves to reducing the number of people experiencing extreme hunger and poverty by half, come 2015.

Development analysts, however, look at this global projection as a myth than reality. They argue that such a goal can only be achieved (especially in developing countries) of governments commit themselves to revitalizing their economies and improving agricultural sectors. So what efforts are being put in place to make this initiative a success, many may wonder?

In 2004, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) did a research through an essay competition based on the theme; “Global food basket for Africa.” The research aimed at providing lasting solutions to Africa’s world food problems. IFPRI needed ideas that would be used to persuade African governments, in a bid to fight the global challenge of soaring food prices.

However, a 2006 World Food Program (WFP) report estimated that 854 million people worldwide hardly met their daily food needs, while a quarter of the African population could hardly afford a meal. In the same year, another independent report estimated how over a million of population in war-affected areas remained food insecure. This year, the global food challenge was felt worldwide. Global climatic changes, coupled with poor agro-fuel policies from the west soared food prices, with Africa’s population feeling the real pinch. No wonder the issue of high food prices topped the agenda during the 2008 millennium challenge meeting held in New York.

The meeting, according to sources who attended, called for a worldwide concerted effort towards addressing the global catastrophe, ahead of the 2015 millennium deadline. Sudan, among other nations that participated in the meeting, pledged to commit itself in the fight against rising food prices. Despite the numerous meetings and conventions held in addressing these global problems, very little actions are usually taken. Yet actions, like they say, speak louder than words. But what could be the way forward?

Africa’s problems appear to be more complex in realty. Notably, over relying on foreign aid, poor governance, civil wars versus internal displacement, drought, flooding, use of backward (rudimentary) technologies and the limited efforts towards environmental conservation simply paint a negative scenario the MDGs achievement. Comparatively, where as farmers in developed nations used modern farming techniques of production and marketing, their counterparts in developing countries like Sudan remain obsessed with rudimentary methods mainly for subsistence and local market consumption.
Interestingly, however, international events usually host governments from the developing and developed nations discussing the same agenda. That’s absurd. The grievances of a farmer in the US, Turkey or Canada, are not the same as those of a rural farmer in South Sudan’s rural locations of Torit, Wau or Rumbek. Ideologically, how would one expect conclusions made at world summits to address the problems of the ordinary man in Sudan’s remote areas? Your guess is as good as mine.

By Ouma Alex Okello

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