Feeding the crisis: The unsettling link between soaring food prices and domestic hunger

By Chiamaka Adinnu || African Liberty
Opinion Feeding the crisis: The unsettling link between soaring food prices and domestic hunger
JUN 18, 2023 LISTEN

According to a report by the World Bank, soaring food prices hit an all-time high in Africa as countries across the continent face double-digit food inflation. Nigeria is at the forefront of countries facing the food inflation crisis. Over the last ten years, Nigeria has recorded a more than 100 percent increase in food inflation, from 10.05 percent in 2013 to its current value of 24.45 percent.

Soaring food prices limit access to adequate and nutritious diets and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition. Oxfam reported that over 20 million more people are hungry in 2023 than in the previous year. Supply chain disruptions and extreme environmental conditions are primarily behind the Sub-Saharan Africa food inflation crisis.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the structural solution to addressing the unsettling link between soaring food prices and domestic hunger. The AfCFTA can enhance trade and infrastructure, positively impacting the agricultural sector and improving food security in Africa.

Supply chain disruptions such as poor transportation networks and supply chain inefficiencies influence import costs and increase food prices. Supply chain disruptions reduce market accessibility and limit the capacity of farmers to transport and sell produce in time before they get spoilt. The AfCFTA can promote market integration, reduce trade barriers and facilitate food movement across borders. Such facilitations help balance supply and demand, stabilize prices, and reduce food inflation. Furthermore, the AfCFTA can allow governments to work together to improve infrastructure and promote economic growth.

According to a report by the African Development Bank Group, Africa is the most vulnerable continent to the adverse effects of climate change. African countries rely heavily on farming, fishing, and forestry, directly influenced by climate change. As such, these extreme environmental changes will affect the attainment of food security on the continent and disrupt food supplies.

Additionally, extreme weather conditions and ‘man-made’ factors such as explosive population trends and water usage contribute to Africa's food inflation crisis. The continent is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. One critical effect of climate change is an increased demand for water which is scarcely available and accessible. Explosive population trends also put pressure on the limited water. This pressure invariably influences agricultural production. In some African countries, there are estimated reductions in crop yields by up to 50 percent from dry farming. Dry farming consists of agricultural practices that rely on rainfall without irrigation systems. However, climate change has led to variability and reduced rainfall for crop production. As a result, agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is severely compromised, hence the high food inflation rate.

Furthermore, the present population trends and water use patterns indicate that more African countries will exceed the limits of their economically usable, land-based water resources before 2025. Africa has the most explosive population growth rate, expected to double to 2.5 billion persons by 2050.

Internal coping mechanisms may not be adequate to address these issues. Moreover, the strategies for adapting to climate change, such as irrigation, seem already outpaced by the impacts of climate change. These cushioning strategies must be more impactful to achieve food self-sufficiency within the continent. More than ever, it is glaring that Africa needs adaptation policies and measures tailored to its local needs to cope with a changing climate.

The adaptation measures must be multilevel solutions that address every factor contributing to the vulnerability of the African continent to climate shock. Such adaptation planning must begin with an understanding of vulnerable populations and regions, as well as an assessment of their capacity to cope with climate change.

Developing management strategies and measures to be adopted should involve the input of the local populations and communities, such as the farmers and the community leaders in the affected areas. Such inclusion ensures that the adopted strategies are effective and meet the needs of communities suffering from the negative impacts of climate change.

Additionally, African countries must collaborate and build the capacity to collect and analyze climate change-related data. This collaboration could involve partnerships with regional and international frameworks like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). African countries can benefit from these partnerships through access to technical data collection and analysis expertise. The UNFCC provides an intensive training program for country representatives and nominees through the reviewers' training programme. The training qualifies them as technical experts capable of reviewing and analyzing the national climate reports submitted by countries.

The AfCFTA can facilitate the sharing of information and technology among member states by promoting technology transfer, the creation of data repositories, standardized data regulations, and information exchange platforms. The exchange of information improves resilience to climate change and reduces the impact of extreme weather events on food production.

Chiamaka Adinnu is a writing fellow at African Liberty.