As the international community observed the world day on 16th October, 2011, Mozambique and Nigeria map out strategies to reduce drastically the lingering food insecurity in their respective countries
Despite rapid economic growth over the past 15 years that has propelled it into the world’s top 10 fastest growing economies, Mozambique faces a difficult task to eradicate food insecurity amongst its population of nearly 23million people.
Recently Mozambique’s deputy minister of Agriculture, Antonio Limbau, warned that food security needed to be “deeply improved”, following the revelation that 37 percent of all households in the country continue to experience hunger at some point throughout the year.
“These numbers concern us. They show the need for drastic improvements in the food and nutritional of our people”, he said at the launch of a new agricultural food statistical information system in Maputo, the country’s capital.
Mozambique’s impressive economic development since the mid-1990s can for he most part, be attributed to two factors: it potential for catch-up growth combine with the desire of numerous multi-national companies to access it largely untapped natural resources.
Mega-projects established to exploit oil and gas field off the country’s Indian Ocean coastline and minerals inland are responsible for bolstering the economy on a macro level, but much still needs to be done to improve the lives of ordinary Mozambicans, 50 percent of who live below the poverty line. By the early 1990’s, farming outside that of the subsistence variety was virtually non-existent in the country, due to the damage inflicted on the agriculture sector by nearly 20 years of brutal conflict. While progress has been made with the help of the international donor community by a government that has adhered to LMF guidelines, internal and external factors are understanding efforts to retrieve the agriculture sector and improve access to basic foods.
The major challenges Mozambique must overcome are global warning and escalating world prices, the latter having a significant impact due to globalization. Because of its geographical location, Mozambique has always been afflicted by droughts, floods and tropical storms, but the weather’s increasingly erratic nature has worsened its influence in recent years and adversely affected the fragile local production system.
The rise in global temperatures has also hit the world’s major food productions belts causing prices to rise significantly.
Due to the organization, these price increases have to large degree, been passed on the developing and developed world in equal measure, even through both groups; ability to absorb these price rises are not the same. Indeed, world food prices record levels last February due to a wave of natural disasters in 2010 that hit the major grain producing countries of Russia and Australia. More recently civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East has also been pushing prices up.
The UN has said it expects commodity prices to continue to rise over the months ahead, and with the world’s rapidly expanding population, which is expected too hit around nine billion people by 2050, and its increasing energy needs added to the mix the future cost of looks likely to remain high. In September last year the Mozambican government was forced into making a U-turn on its decision to stop subsidizing fuel and bread when riot in Maputo erupted over the price hikes, and at least 10 people died and hundreds more were injured.
Maputo resident Ricardina Fenuando Machaies said that most people in the capital cannot afford food like fish, meat and chicken, when the price of a staple food like bread was increased they felt they had to do something when the government decided to increase prices last September it would have been the second time in a year without negotiating with the people. So many decided it was time to show many decided it was time to show them we were not happy.
“Life is difficult at the moment because food is very expensive. Local can only afford to eat spinach and farina (a type of porridge) and if they do not have a job to earn money they have nothing to eat. The people are feeling betrayed by the government when the prices go up”, she explained.
The situation for Mozambique has been further compounded by the current global economic recession, which has made it increasing difficult for donor countries and agencies to maintain the level of support they have given in the past.
Not surprisingly, the country’s president, Armando Guebuza, subsequently warned Mozambicans the government could not guarantee that food and fuel price would not rise in the months ahead, as the budget deflects meant subsidizing commodities like fuel and bread was becoming more difficult.
While there were no food related riots outside the capital at the time of last September’s unrest, the food security situation in rural areas is also precarious, according to Marcela Libombo, an official attached to the department of agriculture’s disaster management secretariat.
A 2009 study recently released by the department found that while food security had generally improved, households continue to face problems related to trading food items, particularly in the districts with good production of maize and cassava.
In the same period, it was found that there are problems related to poor use of food, that environment sanitation was precarious, nutritional education was poor and there were records of cases of poor diet in the province of Cabo Delgado, Gaza, Tete, Manica, Niassa, Nampula and Zambezia.
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