News

First Africa Human Development Report Explores Food Security, Links to Gender and Environment

15 May 2012: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released the first Africa Human Development Report (HDR), titled "Towards a Food Secure Future." The report finds that African governments' bias toward investing in towns rather than rural areas, and men rather than women, are the key factors explaining Africa's food insecurity. While women are significant food producers, for example, their control over land and other productive assets is less than in any other region.

On the occasion of the launch of the report in Nairobi, Kenya, on 15 May 2011, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, in the presence of Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, highlighted that impressive growth rates in gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa have not translated into reduction of hunger and malnutrition. She stressed the need for inclusive growth and people-centered approaches to food security, and said food insecurity will be exacerbated by extreme weather conditions, climate change, ecosystem degradation, and global food prices.

The report notes that while average Asian governments spent 20% of their budgets on agriculture during the green revolution, African governments are spending between 5-10% of their budgets on agriculture. Looking beyond agriculture, the report suggests that food security can be achieved through immediate action in four critical areas: agricultural productivity, nutrition, resilience and empowerment. In order to increase agricultural productivity, it argues, policies should break the bias against women and provide farmers with the necessary inputs, infrastructure and incentives to increase productivity. The report asserts that nutrition needs to be prioritized, and education of girls is a key component to improve the nutrition for the next generation.

The report highlights that policies to build food security should address the sources of the problem, including environmental degradation and climate change, while expanding the opportunities and social protection of the poor. Providing examples from Kenya and Ethiopia, it notes that building resilience includes repairing degraded environments, such as by replanting trees as windbreaks to protect crops, retain moisture in soils, and draw nutrients to topsoil.

Finally, the report recommends concrete measures to promote the empowerment of women and other marginalized groups. [Publication: African Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future] [UNDP Press Release] [Helen Clark's Remarks]