How various stakeholders can mitigate the causes of food shortage in Africa

Hunger is a plight that many African citizens face to this day, with evidence even pointing to the situation worsening over time. Currently, nearly 20% of the African population are experiencing hunger. And the impact of the global pandemic is noteworthy, not to mention showing no signs of easing up any time soon. With so many people sleeping hungry on the continent, the labour pool is impacted, and economic growth is stunted.

Thus, for Africa to experience the development we know to be possible, major reform around the action plan to end hunger must be prioritised. And all stakeholders across the public and private sectors have a responsibility to play their part.

What are the causes of food shortage in Africa?

Before we elaborate on the changes required, let’s take a look at some of the factors contributing to world hunger, especially causes of food shortage in Africa.

Widespread poverty

With consumer inflation at record highs and the job sector stripped of over 600,000 formal employment opportunities due to the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that lockdown samples suggested a staggering 2.4 million people experience perpetual hunger (hunger day after day). And those that have access to food supplies may still fall victim to malnutrition if what they consume has no nutritional value.

Environmental challenges

Another factor that impacts the provision of food is our ever-changing climate. In 2017, approximately 32 million African people were affected by food crises due to changes in the environment and climate instability. Between environmental challenges like deforestation, water scarcity or droughts, food producers have faced hurdles in keeping up with the growing demand for food. This impacts food prices, leaving many citizens who live below the breadline incapable of affording the basics.

Reactive governance

The government plays a major role in food availability, even beyond ensuring citizens can afford it. If we look to the rest of the African continent for inspiration, it becomes clear that policies and programs can positively impact hunger relief, especially when they are proactive as opposed to a response to an already unmanageable crisis. Ethiopia’s agricultural research and fortification programs in other countries have proven successful in stabilising food availability and ensuring its nutritional value.

Population spikes

The supply of food can’t always keep up with the growing demand due to population surges, with our current population rapidly approaching 1.4 billion people. This population increase impacts food supply in two major ways. Firstly, food producers battle to keep up with growing demand, leading to higher prices that everyday working individuals can no longer afford. Secondly, the increase in population means higher competition in the employment market, adding to the widespread poverty and exacerbating food insecurity.

Are there solutions to the food crisis in Africa?

While the current picture is decidedly grim, changes across all sectors, private and public, can remedy these pain points that affect the supply of food to our people.

Halt climate change

The effects of climate change on food supply can only be mitigated by halting climate change on the continent entirely. This can be achieved by avoiding forest degradation, investing in developments to ensure renewable energy solutions, and limiting the expansion of coal-fired power plants.

As the DBSA, our role is to help the African continent address climate change impacting food security by delivering infrastructure and economic development aid in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.

Improve water availability

Water availability, be it for agriculture and landscape irrigation, potable water supplies, industrial processes, or groundwater replenishing, is a major problem in the food supply chain that must be addressed for shortages to be mitigated. One viable solution that may drastically improve water availability on the continent is water reuse. By recycling water, not necessarily for direct potable reuse, greater demands can be met without placing further strain on water resources.

As a Development Finance Institution in Africa, it is our mandate to encourage and assist local municipalities in scaling their water reuse projects to ensure we can achieve sustainable water supply across the continent and potable water for our people.