More than three decades ago, the United Nations named October 16 World Food Day in honor of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on that day in 1945. World Food Day provides a spotlight on the global problem of hunger, which is not a problem of too little food in the world, but of poverty and lack of access to food. In 2012 that light is shining on Sub Saharan Africa, where, according to FAO, there are 64 million more chronically undernourished people today than there were 20 years ago.
As expected, the reasons for this increase are complex and include politics, economics and injustice. But through research, there is a better understanding of underlying evidence about how we might be able to start to reduce hunger in the countries of Africa.
More than half of the poor in Sub Saharan Africa live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. A recent report by the International Food Policy Research Institute finds that while improving overall economic growth is important to reducing poverty in African countries, improving agriculture has the largest impact on reducing poverty rates, particularly when the focus is on staple crops like maize, wheat and cassava. Since agriculture is the economic driver in rural areas, improving agriculture not only reduces hunger, it reduces poverty.
A number of Aid for Africa members focus on agricultural development in the region, including EcoAgricuture Partners, which is working in East Africa to identify strategies for landscapes that produce food and support livelihoods while protecting environmental diversity, and ICIPE, based in Kenya, which works to improve agriculture and the environment throughout Africa through the study of the benefits and harms of insects.
Rural farmers are using small irrigation pumps developed by KickStart International to produce crops year-round, and the Earth Institute works throughout Africa to ensure the sustainability of agriculture, clean water access, and nutrition. Finally, the vast majority of microfinance projects funded by Aid for Africa organizations in rural areas are for sustainable agriculture. We have learned that through agriculture, there is great leverage to improve the lives of those living in the region.
As part of our commitment to African agriculture, Aid for Africa has created the Aid for Africa Endowment for Food and Sustainable Agriculture at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition in Boston, Massachusetts. The Endowment supports graduate research on food security and poverty reduction in Sub Saharan Africa. Through the Endowment, Aid for Africa is strengthening its focus on expanding sustainable agriculture, building capacity to solve agricultural problems in Sub Saharan Africa, and supporting our outreach on African issues.
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