Concerns over food security


THE First International Conference on Food Security and Climate Change, organised by the Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (FSCC) and sponsored by the Canadian Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI), and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), was held on October 4-5 2018 in Harare under the theme ‘Developing Adaptive and Resilient Food Production Systems in the Face of Climate Change’.
Spearheaded by Bindura University of Science Education, Cde Perence Shiri as Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Development, was among the distinguished speakers.
Zimbabwe joined GBIF as an associate participant, becoming the 56th country to join the global network under the new dispensation.
Thanks to the new dispensation, under the auspices of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, it was the first time Zimbabwe hosted a conference of this magnitude in advance to a similar conference yet to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, under the theme, ‘Next Generation Food Safety Technologies addressing Sustainable Development Goals’.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s World Food Summit held in 1996: “Food Security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Food security indicators and measures are derived from country level household income and expenditure surveys to estimate per capita caloric availability.
Also, according to FAO, food security is pivoted on four major aspects, which are: availability, access, stability and utilisation of food.
In the same way, food safety implies: “The absence of, or acceptable and safe levels of contaminants, adulterants, naturally occurring toxins or any other substance that make food injurious to health on an acute or chronic basis.”
The world body (UN), in their 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, recognises the right to food as a fundamental human right and has since noted that it is vital for the enjoyment of all other rights.
Food security is a condition related to the supply of food and an individual’s access to it.
In the years 2010-2012, FAO reported that almost 870 million people were chronically undernourished.
This represents 12,5 percent of the global population, or one-in-eight people.
Higher rates occur in developing countries, where 852 million people (about 15 percent of the population) are chronically undernourished.
During the years 2011-2013, an estimated 842 million people were reported suffering from chronic hunger worldwide.
The World Summit on Food Security held in 1996, declared that; “Food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure.”
And according to the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, failed agricultural market regulations and the lack of anti-dumping mechanisms, over and above adverse weather conditions, cause much of the world’s food scarcity and malnutrition.
According to the UN, about two billion people do not consume sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals.
In order to achieve sustainable food security, current agricultural production output has to increase against challenges caused by climate changes that include increased occurrences of extreme and extensive climatic variations that make planning of food production problematic.
However, concerns over food security have existed throughout history.
There is evidence of granaries being in use over 10 000 years ago, with central authorities in civilisations that include ancient Egypt, China and Zimbabwe known historically to release food from storage in times of famine.
The Zunde ramambo period in Zimbabwe’s history – revived under the Command Agriculture Programme, recalls an historic epoch where the ruling echelons of the Munhumutapa dynasties ensured food security for the entire populace, regardless of social standing, hence Zimbabwe’s repute as the bread-basket of Southern Africa.
As the world’s population is expected to increase to nine billion by 2050, it is anticipated that, based on current food consumption trends, agricultural production will have to grow by 60 percent in order to ensure food security for the world’s growing populations.
Thus, the Harare conference enabled participants to share and exchange experiences on food security and climate change. Here, the objectives of their deliberations were to:
l Identify food systems technologies and institutional and policy options that help in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and improve food security through building ecosystem resilience;
l Identify effective mechanisms of partnerships for co-operation between national, regional and international agencies working on food security and climate change management;
l Gain more insights into the food security-climate change matrix through application of macro-data analytics and;
l Promote mobilisation of human and financial resources to enhance regional and international co-operation on research and development activities that sustainably improve food security in the face of climate change.
Owing to adverse weather conditions, endemic to southern Africa, agriculture is both a driver and victim of climate change.
Recent reports show declining agricultural production resulting in lower incomes in vulnerable areas, with fears that developing countries, where the majority of the world’s hungry are said to live, will be mostly affected by predicted adverse climatic changes.
The solutions, therefore, should be indigenous ones that support innovation and solution-based research within these developing countries, which engage indigenous knowledge and known scientific research to mitigate hunger.
However, for indigenous people of Zimbabwe, agriculture is historically our land culture.
Farming and cattle husbandry, cultivating land and rearing crops were part of our agro-cultural ethos.
It involved agronomy, agrostology and agronomics, which were under the jurisdiction of indigenous chiefs, lords and the hurudza (master farmers) of MaDzimbahwe.
Bill and Melinda Gates made the prediction that Africa would feed itself by 2030.
In order to achieve this goal and build ‘the future we want’, innovation needs to be accelerated within Africa, allowing us to ensure safety in order to assure food security.
For the next generations, innovative technologies are required in the field of food safety, especially within developing countries. Combining the force of indigenous food safety knowledge and practices as well as those of occidental scientific research is key to achieving these goals.
This conference represented how the sustainable development goals will be coupled with important food safety themes in order to address food safety and food security.
Subsequently, one of the objectives of South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST 2011-2016 Strategy), is to reduce poverty through technology by improving socio-economic status and food security that is sustainable and vibrant in the urbanising spaces and rural communities.
Transforming our world through the sustainable development goals is crucial to achieving food safety and, with it, food security.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and Post-Colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, lecturer, musician, art critic, practising artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher.
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