Hunger in Africa: Why Again?

Published on 4th February 2014

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is appealing for more than $US2 billion ($2.28 billion) to feed and care for more than 20 million people across Africa's Sahel belt.  According to the global body, conflicts in Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Central African Republic coupled with cyclical floods, droughts, locust infestations and epidemics have disrupted markets and caused food shortages across the savannah region.

Why famine again in Africa? While the perennial food scarcity in the region (in spite of local and global efforts) has puzzled development pundits, it is clear that competing interests are key drivers to famine than natural forces. Conflicts are manmade.  Domestic and foreign policies that breed exclusionary societal orientation are manmade. Local politicians and warlords that use food to bribe potential voters and starvation as a weapon against opponents are manmade.

African governments must shun their reactionary stance and transform the 70 percent subsistence-farmer population into a society with a substantial middle and upper class. Food relief efforts are laudable but just in the short term. A bold initiative is required to give African farmers a strong political clout to fight famine in the continent.

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