On 30 October 2015, civil society organisations (CSO) and government leaders across the continent will recognise the 6th African Day on Food and Nutrition Security. It will be an opportunity to focus attention on political and financial commitments made by Africa leaders at all levels to address contemporary challenges of food and nutrition insecurity in Africa. While we should highlight the great progress South Africa has made in reducing hunger and malnutrition, we should not overlook the fact that the country has a malnutrition crisis relating to both high rates of under and over nutrition. This is especially concerning given the fact South Africa is considered a ‘food secure’ nation which can produce enough calories to feed its population.
ONE commends the government of South Africa for the leadership role taken in 2014 to contribute to a strong African Union declaration that contains specific indicators and targets agreed by African heads of states to eliminate hunger, malnutrition and poverty in Africa by 2025. Given these serious and new commitments, we applaud initiatives such as those drive by the South African Department of Social Development to improve access to food through the subsided 19 000 Early Childhood Development centres. More innovative solutions like this must be created and supported through robust multi-sectoral agriculture investments. Through data analysed across African countries, it has been observed that agriculture investments have already been proven to show a high return to the investment. For example, according to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), investments in agriculture in sub Saharan Africa are 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than investments in any other sector. Despite this high return, public expenditure to agriculture in South Africa has averaged about percent annually from 2003-2013, lower than the Malabo African Union target of 10 percent. South Africa has also made no commitments at the 1st Nutrition for Growth event in London in 2012, and did not sign the compact.
Measures are already in place for the government to address gaps in their nutrition policy and in particular the low levels of agriculture financing. South Africa signed The Malabo Declaration last year wherein the government committed to spending 10 percent of its national budget in agriculture, reach six percent growth in agriculture, and reduce rates of stunting to 10 percent by 2025. Just last month, along with other global governments, South Africa adopted the Sustainable Development Goals at the UN General Assembly which included a goal to end hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 (SDG 2).The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa guarantees the right of everyone to have access to sufficient food, and obliges the state to take reasonable legislative measures, within its available resources, to achieve realisation of these rights. ONE therefore calls upon the South African government to:
- Accelerate the CAADP Compact development process, and incorporate the agreements made last year in Malabo and this year in New York City in the National Development Plan;
- Join the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, and commit to creating a multi-sector multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism by the Rio Nutrition for Growth event; and
- Join the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and commit resources to more timely data collection
We are at a new and exciting starting point where a real difference can be made. As the development community prepares to implement initiatives to start the new SDGs, leaders across the continent have an opportunity to break the cycle of hunger and critical issues of food security and access. Now is the time for South Africa and other African government leaders to set a path towards zero hunger and malnutrition through ambitious investments, particularly by investing in women farmers, better data and rigorous accountability for commitments made, and lastly but not the least ensuring that the most vulnerable people get what they need to create a world with zero hunger. We urge the government to increase its 2016 agriculture budget allocation as a practical demonstration of its commitment to transform agriculture and create further economic opportunities for agriculture dependent, rural South Africa. By doing so, Africa governments will certainly be leading from the front by unlocking agricultures potential to end poverty and drive economic progress for all across the continent.
ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organisation of nearly 7 million people, nearly 3 million on the continent, taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, we raise public awareness and press political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs.
- Nachilala Nkombo is Deputy Executive Director Africa at ONE Campaign.
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