Trend Monitoring Report: Drivers of regional food security

Growing food insecurity is a reality in the region. Based on this observation, the third SID trend monitoring report seeks to provide a regional overview on the topic, by looking at some of the key drivers (weather conditions, climate change, conflict) as described in news and reports, by summarizing the GHEA countries' food security outlook in 2010 and by focusing on the new reality of the great African land rush.

 

As news and indicators seem to show, the situation remains critical in terms of food security in the GHEA region. One of the most severe droughts for a generation occurred in 2009, followed by a season of heavy rains: late crops were washed away (Burundi) and domestic reserves (Tanzania) dried up, forcing people to turn to imported and more expensive goods. The 2009 global hunger index described the situation in Kenya as alarming, with 10 million Kenyans unable to access food and the government declaring national disaster.

What emerges from the March edition of SID monitoring report is that a widespread humanitarian crisis will persist in the Horn all through the year 2010, with the need for emergency food assistance persisting. Rural population, agro-pastoralists and IDPs (in camps and urban centres) are the most vulnerable. What is striking is that Somalia has the largest single population group in crisis (the IDPs accounts for the 43 percent of the overall population); Ethiopia requires food assistance for US $230 million through December 2010; Djibouti registers a livestock mortality around 50-70 percent; and Sudan registers elevated levels of conflicts and cattle raiding. The information seems to suggest that further waves of people's movements may occur in the entire GHEA region as a consequence of the worsening of food security. What is more remarkable is that movements not only are likely to head towards the porous borders of the East African Community, but also - as it already happens - within the Horn itself where Sudan and Ethiopia, for instance, register a negative balance between emigration and immigration, with inflows being slightly higher than outflows. It derives that a more holistic approach that considers climate change, conflict, demographic trends and mobility as an interconnected nexus of cause and effects influencing food security is necessary.

Experts say that food security can be attained if new farming technologies are embraced. The willingness to promote research and develop new technologies is therefore crucial. With no link actually between research and dissemination of technology, it has been suggested, small-scale farmers are stuck with traditional farming method. However, technology per se is not enough. The real question is how technology upgrading be made without damaging biodiversity and pursuant to the principle of sustainable development. As the report highlights, a project of domesticating Guinea pigs is underway in DR Congo, as a viable solution for food insecurity. These animals, that notoriously do not exist in the wild, are considered, amongst others, a good source of protein and micro-nutrient for areas with high levels of malnutrition. Although this is not the proper space to address the issue rigorously, the news is quite puzzling and inevitably raises some concern about the sustainability in nature of such kind of studies. Similarly, the news about the adoption of Genetically Modified (GM) maize in Kenya - imported from South Africa without undertaking the due safety checks and in the complete unawareness of its citizens — leaves the reader quite perplex about the use and diffusion of technology and its impact on people and development. GM food is a notoriously sensitive subject as it is also evocative of important issues like product's testing on vulnerable people, people's health, environmental degradation, and degree of accountability of both public and private sectors.

The capacity of national governments and regional institutions to address causes and triggering effects of this food emergency will be decisive. Indeed, it is compelling to push food security, agriculture and technology at top of the political agenda. On the other hand, it is crucial to make a better use of research and technology in accordance to sustainable development and protection of home-grown resources and cultures.

(by Angela Zarro)

Read the full report 

  • In this issue:
  • Editorial
  • Headlines on Food Seurity
  • Food Security Outlook for Countries in the greater Horn of Africa
  • The Great African Land rush
  • Last Word

 

Photo: Mr. Kris/flickr