The sub-Saharan African Region, unlike other developing regions, has made little progress in the past 20-30 years towards improving its food security situation. Indeed, in terms of average aggregate per caput
availability of food, sub-Saharan Africa is now worse off than in the past. Apart from the growing number of chronically food insecure people, projected to grow to one third of the population of the Region in the year 2002, the number of refugees and displaced persons, as a result of man-made problems, is growing. Immediate emergency needs are taking a considerable amount of national and international resources at the expense of longer-term development. In order to focus the efforts to alleviate food insecurity prevalent in the Region, so that the greatest sustainable impact can be realized, the paper discusses the current situation and prospects for the future, following broad areas within which appropriate actions by all concerned ought to be planned and implemented.
The scale of food insecurity and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa underscores the importance of economic growth in general and agricultural growth in particular, in view of the high dependence of the economies on agriculture. A growing and productive agricultural sector in the Region would be the driving force for their economies, providing food, jobs, savings and market for food from the industrial sector. The Region has considerable untapped potential for increasing agricultural and food production. Exploiting this potential should be the number one priority, and calls for concrete agricultural and food policy initiatives. measures should be taken to eliminate the inequities in the distribution of land, income, political power, education and training and access to inputs, including those embodying new technology to services, markets and finance.
Almost all of a these issues are of a long-term nature; the acute hunger that exists now needs to be addressed immediately. Direct interventions that avoid where possible, distortions of economic incentives are needed. It is important to develop food security interventions that target the poorest and most food insecure, particularly those who do not benefit from economic growth and social security interventions that also have a development pay-off. These include, public works schemes which simultaneously provide an income transfer to poor employees, while contributing to development through tree planting, soil erosion control or road building.