Food rights in Africa Let’s not allow citizens to go hungry

Business Daily Africa, May 29, 2012

By Rijit Sengupta

The first Africa Human Development Report 2012 released recently by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stresses a couple of fundamental issues for preserving the ‘‘right to food’’ for countries that struggle to provide two square meals to their citizens.

This report comes at a time when many parts of Africa continue to be in the grip of droughts, and affect hundreds of thousands of families.

The report highlights entitlements and capabilities, as two key determinants to help achieve food security for better human development results across the continent.

An emphasis on the right to food is timely, given that the continent continues to struggle in dealing with recurring famines.

Having emerged recently from the scars of a famine that affected the entire horn of Africa last year, currently most of Sahel is in the grip of yet another famine.

The Africa Human Development Report (AHDR) comes in the face of yet another recent report (Africa Progress Panel Report 2012) that highlight the growing divide between prosperity on the one side and rising inequality on the other.

In the last decade a number of African countries were able to maintain a fairly consistent growth trajectory.

Tackled differently

However, access to local agriculture markets and the performance of these markets has remained a challenge.

Some countries might be better able to address this through a decentralised system of governance, while for others it has to be tackled differently.

Improving access of farmers to local agriculture markets, and enhancing their bargaining power is a key measure.

Some experiments of getting farmers to form groups and cooperatives have been made in few countries and could be looked at more closely.

This is one area that international development partners can bring in their experience and organise farmers’ communities.

Community food banks have worked in some countries, and need much greater impetus through policies.

Community leaders should be empowered to develop and maintain these food banks.

A number of countries have started working on enabling legislation to protect the right to food for their citizens.

It is critical that some of the above mentioned priorities are incorporated in such legislation, especially to help tackle food crisis where is happens.

No more time should be wasted in turning such policies into actions. All interested stakeholders should work together with African governments, and pledge not to allow their citizens to go to bed hungry any more.

The writer is CUTS International Regional director for Africa

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