Addressing the challenges of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms is a prominent feature of the Agenda 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG targets 2.1 and 2.2 focus on ensuring access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for all, and eliminating all forms of malnutrition, respectively. However, current evidence is showing a rise in all forms of malnutrition, that is undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over 90% (237 million) of the world’s undernourished people, while obesity has become a growing challenge, especially among women in urban areas. At the regional level, only a few African countries are on track to meet the global nutrition target for stunting and Africa is unlikely to eradicate hunger by 2030.
Covid-19 and climate change-related shocks threaten to erode and reverse the gains made towards ending hunger and malnutrition. In addition to climate change being a present and growing threat to food and nutrition security in Africa, and more so to the economies of countries that are heavily reliant on agriculture, COVID-19 has brought an unexpected and unimaginable challenge to the food system, disrupting the smooth flow of agricultural value chains and the actions of many food system players. The unexpected turn of events has led to the unpredictability of the performance of the already unstable food systems. It is estimated that by 2050, an additional 71 million people globally will become food insecure as a result of the impacts of climate change, with over half of them being in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). With the additional impacts of COVID-19, the performance of the current food system has to be re-organised to respond to these and any future challenges.
The deterioration of the food and nutrition security situation in Africa, and the lack of progress towards World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets, make it imperative for countries to step up their efforts. If countries are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030, there is need for greater and combined efforts from all governments and their development partners.
With increasing and recurring incidences and adverse effect of climate change and other shocks on agriculture and food systems, the need for enhancing the adaptive capacity of individuals and institutions cannot be under emphasised. In order to properly ensure that the agriculture and food systems are resilient and functional, players in these value chains must be equipped with the necessary tools and skills to respond to changes. The focus on building the adaptive capacity of existing and upcoming farmers and food supply chains is strategic, given the projected role of the continent’s youthful population in agriculture. Africa’s population is projected to have over 840 million youth by 2050, making it the continent with the youngest population on earth (World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision). The challenge is how to respond to the growing bulge of the working-age population to harness the youth dividend. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), only three million formal jobs were created each year against 10 to 12 million youth who entered the job market across the continent in the decade from 2010. As a viable solution, agriculture value chains offer huge opportunities in employment creation and empowerment for such a population group.