Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Feeding the World and Food Aid

 Dr. Ton Dietz, the director of the Afrika Studie Centrum, based in Leiden, Netherlands, one of Europe's leading think tanks on Africa, laid out the results of research that clearly questions the image of Africa so commonly seen as a hungry continent. 

His research presented showed that total basic food production in Africa has actually not only kept pace with population growth, but has increased proportionally faster than has the population. Livestock production was more of a mixed story. In some countries, such as Uganda, the Sudans, Kenya, Burundi and Mozambique, food production has not kept pace with population growth. However, overall Africa produces more than enough food to feed itself.

Research showed that the amount of calories consumed per person had actually increased in all of West Africa, but had decreased in all east African countries between 1961 to 2009 despite the region has some of the most fertile agricultural land available on the continent. According to Dietz, in 1961 every nation in Africa produced domestically more than 100 percent of its domestic food supply. Now, most African countries produce less than its domestic supply and therefore are becoming more dependent on food imports, even though they grow enough food to feed themselves. The research showed that post-harvest loss is the major problem in the Sudans and not weather conditions. The same is true for Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Mozambique.

Africa currently produces more than enough to feed itself, yet many countries are net importers of food when years ago most were net exporters. However, the ability to trade regionally and move food across borders is severely limited by lack of infrastructure as well as by the political difficulty of cross-border trade. Africa lacks infrastructures for adequate storage and refrigeration.

 The world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. But close to a billion people go to sleep hungry every night. The problem is that many people in the world don’t have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase enough food.  Hunger is not a random condition. Women, children, indigenous people, and other minorities are living with the crushing reality of hunger.  Climate change is rapidly pushing the world’s poorest people – those least responsible for it – to the limits of subsistence.

American food aid today accounts for less than 1 percent of agricultural exports and less than 0.1 percent of food production in the country. Regulation mandates that at least half of all U.S. food aid be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, known as the Cargo Preference for Food Aid (CPFA). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied the effects of the CPFA, and found that the costs were significant. Overall, the GAO estimated that the CFPA increased costs of shipping by 23 percent between 2011 and 2014, making up over $107 million of the total $456 million cost.  60 percent of the food aid budget is spent on items that have nothing to do with food — such as transportation costs for the American food that we’re sending halfway around the world on more expensive American ships.

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