Global Food Policy Report: Making Africa's Food System More Inclusive, Sustainable

IFPRI’s 2016 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) gives some good news for Africa – poverty and hunger both fell during the period 2003-2014. The share of the region’s population living on less than US$1.25 per day (purchasing power parity) declined from 42.9 percent to 36.9 percent, while the prevalence of malnourishment fell from 22.1 percent to 17 percent. Child stunting also fell from 40.2 percent to 35.9 percent.

Despite this progress, however, much remains to be done to move the region forward. The report calls for continued commitment for agricultural financing and climate-smart policies, as set out in the 2014 Malabo Declaration, to drive sustainable economic growth, further reductions in poverty and hunger, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Africa has enjoyed positive agricultural and economic growth over the study period (2003-2014), but the rate of this growth slowed as a result of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. GDP per capita grew by only 1.3 percent annually from 2008-2014, compared to the 3.5 percent annual growth rate seen from 2003-2008. Similarly, agricultural value-added grew at a rate of 2.6 percent per year from 2008-2014, down from 3.8 percent in the previous period. Eastern Africa exceeded the CAADP goal of 6 percent agricultural growth during the 2008-2014 period, with growth of 6.6 percent, but the rest of the region failed to meet that goal.

Government spending on agriculture also failed to meet the CAADP goal of 10 percent of overall budgets during 2008-2014, reaching an average of only 3 percent regionally. Lower spending on agriculture translates into less money to improve rural infrastructure, like roads, that can connect more farmers to markets and less money going toward agricultural research and development to enhance agricultural productivity. With many countries in SSA still relying on agriculture to drive their overall economic development, this lack of investment continues to hamper the region economically and prevent more successful poverty reduction.

While climate-smart agricultural policies (such as no-till farming and soil fertility management) are beginning to pick up steam in the region, adoption rates still remain low. In 2015, this resulted in several coordinated efforts to increase uptake of sustainable production practices, particularly by smallholder farmers. The Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance held several multi-sectoral country dialogues to encourage investment in country-level climate-smart agricultural program. Malawi and Zambia were among the countries to establish national steering committees for scaling up climate-smart agriculture as a result of these meetings.

The Pan-Africa Alliance and Platform on Climate Change was also launched in 2015, with the goal of having at least 25 million farming households using climate-smart practices by 2025. The initiative will provide a forum for policymakers to learn best practices and form partnerships and will conduct periodic reviews of country-level progress.

According to the GFPR, the focus of Africa’s policymakers in the coming year will be mainstreaming the goals of the Malabo Declaration, CAADP, and the SDCs in order to increase sustainable agricultural growth and productivity to fight both hunger and poverty in the region. Addressing these challenges will require  continued improvement and transparency in governing institutions; increased investment in agricultural research and development to improve productivity; efforts to increase market access for smallholders, particularly women and youth; improvements in rural infrastructure; and reform of national input subsidy programs to help farmers use fertilizers and other inputs more efficiently and sustainably. Ultimately, it is hoped that these goals will impact both countries’ agricultural policies and overall food policies, making the region’s food system more productive, inclusive, and sustainable.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: CIAT