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The Food Security Conundrum of Sub-Saharan Africa


Food security in Africa needs abundant, affordable and nutritious food for the growing population.
•Smallholder farmers lack sufficient land or economic incentives to invest in agriculture.
•The above issues create a ‘wicked problem’ – a conundrum for future food security.

National food security in countries of sub-Saharan Africa requires an abundant supply of cheap and nutritious food for the burgeoning population. At the same time agriculture is a major contributor to the balance of payments for African economies. So agricultural production in Africa needs to increase strongly to meet the demands of both national and international markets. Yet fragmentation of land due to population pressure in rural areas, and the low prices farmers are paid for their produce, mean that in many rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa the farms are already too small to provide food security or a living income for the household. There is a high dependency on off-farm income and little incentive to intensify production. Thus rural households are often ‘reluctant’ farmers, lacking resources or the economic incentives to invest in agriculture. The conundrum that must be addressed is how to provide cheap, nutritious food to feed the growing urban and rural populations while creating incentives to stimulate increased agricultural production. This will require major transformations of the smallholder farming systems alongside creation of alternative employment.

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