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International Food Security: Insufficient Efforts by Host Governments and Donors Threaten Progress to Halve Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.

GAO-08-680 May 29, 2008

In 1996, the United States and more than 180 world leaders pledged to halve the number of undernourished people globally by 2015 from the 1990 level. The global number has not decreased significantly--remaining at about 850 million in 2001-2003--and the number in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from about 170 million in 1990-1992 to over 200 million in 2001-2003. On the basis of analyses of U.S. and international agency documents, structured panel discussions with experts and practitioners, and fieldwork in four African countries, GAO was asked to examine (1) factors that contribute to persistent food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and (2) the extent to which host governments and donors, including the United States, are working toward halving hunger in the region by 2015.

Chronic undernourishment (food insecurity) in sub-Saharan Africa persists primarily due to low agricultural productivity, limited rural development, government policy disincentives, and the impact of poor health on the agricultural workforce. Additional factors, including rising global commodity prices and climate change, will likely further exacerbate food insecurity in the region. Agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa, as measured by grain yield, is only about 40 percent of that of the rest of the world's developing countries, and the gap has widened over the years. Low agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa is due, in part, to the limited use of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and improved seed varieties, and the lack of modern farming practices. The efforts of host governments and donors, including the United States, to achieve the goal of halving hunger in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015 have thus far been insufficient. First, some host governments have not prioritized food security as a development goal, and, according to a 2008 report of the International Food Policy Research Institute, as of 2005, only a few countries had fulfilled a 2003 pledge to direct 10 percent of government spending to agriculture. Second, donors have reduced the priority given to agriculture, and their efforts have been further hampered by difficulties in coordination and deficiencies in measuring and monitoring progress. Third, limited agricultural development resources and a fragmented approach have impaired U.S. efforts to reduce hunger in Africa. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding to address food insecurity in Africa has been primarily for emergency food aid, which has been crucial in helping to alleviate food crises but has not addressed the underlying factors that contributed to the recurrence and severity of these crises. Also, the United States' principal strategy for meeting its commitment to halve hunger in Africa is limited to some of USAID's agricultural development activities and does not integrate other U.S. agencies' agricultural development assistance to the region.

Categories: International Affairs, Agricultural industry, Agricultural production, Agricultural programs, Climate change, Contaminated foods, Developing countries, Federal aid to foreign countries, Food industry, Food inspection, Food relief programs, Food safety, Food supply, Foreign aid programs, Foreign governments, Grain and grain products, International agreements, International cooperation, International food programs, International organizations, International relations, Program management, Strategic planning, Sustainable agriculture, Africa Food Security Initiative, Sub-Saharan Africa, UN World Food Program, USAID Initiative to End Hunger in Africa
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:522
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