IN many ways, Africa is the "final frontier" of hunger eradication efforts.
Despite an increasing focus on the continent and its food-related struggles, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains the most food-insecure region in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual International Food Security Assessment.
Each year, USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) undertakes an analysis of global food insecurity covering 76 low- and middle-income countries. The 2013 estimates, released late last month, numbered the food-insecure population at about 707 million people, virtually unchanged from an estimated 704 million in 2012.
According to ERS, the share of the population that is food insecure in these countries is expected to decrease from about 21% in 2012 to 20% this year. The intensity of food insecurity — as measured by the per capita distribution gap — is estimated to remain the highest in SSA and the lowest in North Africa and Asia (Map).
The ERS assessment accounts for changes in production and import capacity that affect food availability, as well as the distribution of food across income groups. For the analysis, food insecurity is defined as daily per capita consumption below a target of 2,100 calories and the per capita distribution gap estimates of the amount of food needed to raise consumption in each income group to the nutritional target.
The issue of SSA food insecurity is significant: ERS's assessment found that the 39 SSA countries included in the study accounted for about 25% of the population of the 76 countries covered but had 36% of the total population estimated to be food insecure in all of the studied countries for 2013.
Furthermore, the SSA region accounted for about 60% of the total 76-country food distribution gap estimated for 2013, reflecting problems with access to food in lower-income deciles and the depth of food insecurity in the region.
ERS said the SSA region is home to some of the lowest per capita food consumption levels in the world.
Hoping to dramatically change those sad facts over the next decade, African heads of state and government met July 1 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to decide on innovative and actionable measures to put an end to hunger in Africa.
The high-level meeting of African and international leaders took place at the behest of the African Union (AU), the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Lula Institute, and the delegates unanimously adopted a declaration to end hunger in Africa by 2025.
"To date, 10 of the 54 AU member states have reached the target of allocating at least 10% of (their) public investment in agriculture. Among them are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal who have already exceeded the target," AU commission chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said. Ten countries have exceeded a target of 6% growth in agricultural production, and another four have achieved more than 5% growth.
Delegates at the meeting acknowledged that the African region is witnessing economic growth of unprecedented proportions, having both a young population and vast natural resources. Leaders committed to a roadmap to be implemented primarily with in-country resources but with technical assistance and outside support from international development partners.
Addressing the Addis Ababa meeting, FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva highlighted the need for an integral approach to promote food security.
"To achieve food security in a sustainable way, we must work with small-scale producers, helping them increase production and productivity, but we also need to look at access to food and ensure that poor families have the means to produce the food they need or earn the income needed to buy their food," he explained. "FAO is ready to rally behind African leadership to meet the goal of ending hunger in Africa."