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Championing climate actions to avert food crises and malnutrition in Eastern Africa

by Grace Kisembo

Discussing the intricate relationship between climate change and the urgent challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition, Parliamentarians drawn from the Eastern Africa subregion agreed to champion the cause for swift and determined climate actions from governments and relevant organizations.

The primary objective of these actions is to combat the persistent challenges presented by droughts, floods, landslides, and the emergence of pests, which have a profound impact on agricultural production in the subregion.

During its 5th General Assembly Meeting, the Eastern Africa Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (EAPA FSN), along with the East African Community (EAC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), reiterated that the Eastern Africa Subregion should not continue as a drought and famine hotspot; having all the agricultural resources it needs to feed itself and the whole Africa.

Opening the General Assembly Meeting, the Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Moses M. Wetang’ula EGH, Member of Parliament and Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, pointed out that Africa has struggled with poverty and hunger despite having all the necessary agricultural resources and policy instruments. He raised the question of why Africa, with its vast arable land, dynamic youth, favourable weather, and abundant water, has not been able to achieve food self-sufficiency and social transformation over an extended period.

In his call to action, he urged fellow parliamentarians to shift their attention towards fulfilling the crucial investment requirements for agriculture, as outlined in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which stipulates that countries allocate ten percent of their national budget to agriculture.

Additionally, he advised fellow parliamentarians to actively engage in efforts to transform attitudes within diverse communities concerning food production, processing, consumption and post-harvest management. This collective effort is essential to create a connection that offers hope and a healthy life for its people.

Hon. Adan Haji Yusuf, the Chairperson of the Alliance, emphasized the pivotal role of parliamentarians in combating hunger and malnutrition. He highlighted that their legislative, budgetary, and oversight responsibilities uniquely position them to elevate the importance of food and nutrition security to the highest levels of the political and legislative agenda. Achieving food security and nutrition necessitates the active participation of parliamentarians, which, in turn, requires substantial support and coordination in the subregion.

David Phiri, Special Adviser to FAO Assistant Director-General and outgoing Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, underscored the pressing concerns of both climate change and food insecurity and malnutrition in the Eastern African region. He reminded parliamentarians that even though the subregion hosts less than 25 percent of the African population, it accounts for almost 50 percent of the undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa.

He emphasized that the bidirectional relationship between climate change and agriculture creates an unprecedented challenge for the farming population. Extreme weather events, which mainly occur due to climate change, are becoming among the major triggers of such a predicament.

Phiri stressed the urgent need for integrated solutions to address this challenge, highlighting the importance of promoting incentives and innovative mechanisms to leverage public and private sector investments.

Furthermore, Phiri confirmed FAO’s unwavering commitment to EAPA FSN in its endeavors to galvanize the establishment of national alliances as well as catalysing the agenda of food security and nutrition, with a focus on nutrition financing.

Climate change is deeply linked to food security and nutrition. The agrifood system represents a significant portion of global emissions and is also the most affected sector by climate change. The Eastern Africa subregion is particularly vulnerable, experiencing cascading effects on food security, nutrition, poverty, and livelihoods. Climate change leads to a breakdown of food systems, resulting in loss of rural livelihoods, income, and ecosystems.

According to recent FAO data for 2023, 135 million people in Eastern Africa are undernourished, almost half of the 282 million undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, 22 million children under the age of 5 years are stunted, and 362 million people, representing 85 percent of the region’s population, cannot afford a healthy diet.

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