Editor's Note [Volume 22 No. 6 (2022)]


The Africa Food Prize

The Africa Food Prize 2022 event (5th - 9th September) just ended in the beautiful city of Kigali, Rwanda. I was a co-recipient of the Prize in 2017, awarded in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

For me what was unique about the 2022 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was the fact that finally NUTRITION took center stage. Food systems and healthy diets were discussed in many sessions. Let me congratulate AGRA for pulling off a great event.

How did the Prize impact my career and professional life? Each time I am introduced, it must be added “She is the 2017 Africa Food Prize Laureate”. The title adds value to my accolades, there is no doubt about that. The title has helped the growth of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) for which I am the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief. The prize has enhanced my image as I get invited to many different events, internationally mostly. I believe also that the award has raised the image of the issues I am passionate about: nutrition and women, smallholder farmers and their continued marginalization, information sharing and getting academics and policy makers seriously engaged and doing something, youth in agriculture and the role of traditional foods in this climate challenged world.

But then, increasingly, I attend these conferences with mixed feelings. I am sure it has something to do with ageing. I have in the past repeatedly raised concerns about the high cost of these meetings. Meanwhile, numbers of those going hungry and experiencing abject poverty are escalating. As of now, more than 25% of the sub-Saharan African population is undernourished. The cost of food imports is unacceptably high. USD 43 billion are spent annually on food imports for Africa. The Corona Pandemic and climate change impacts are pushing people to the brink of desperation and abject hunger. The pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine war are being given as reasons for rising food prices. Why can we not see them as opportunity to do things differently?

Why are we not making any progress when it comes to reducing world hunger? Do we not have enough food in the world? Why can’t Africa feed itself? Why does Africa continue to expect war- torn Ukraine to feed it? Other than so many conflicts, Africa is not at war.

I thought we could have learnt something from the pandemic. God spared Africa; yes, GOD did. What lessons do we take from that? Each year we hold meetings to discuss poverty and world hunger and each time the focus is Africa.

Each year the number of those poor and hungry goes up. What are we missing? Is there enough political will to change the way we do things? Look, Europe is now beginning to look like the drought-stricken Horn of Africa. What can Europe learn from Africa? I am a strong believer in Africa’s traditional foods and indigenous food systems. Is it possible that only these systems can withstand the ravages of climate variability? Yes, I got the Prize, which added much value to my career. However, the award did not translate into more funds for my work. I had hoped to get more resources to upscale my work. I say this because I believe that only acting locally will give us the much needed transformation. The many donors and development partners we have can make a difference. I urge them to support grassroots organizations as well, such as my Rural Outreach Africa which works in western Kenya. I also urge them to partner with us at the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), with programs in Mali, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda because our approach meets the smallholder farmer where he/she is. We walk with the farmer. The reason SAA has been able to have impact and lift millions of farmers out of poverty through agriculture is the sustained funding we have had since inception in 1986. Thanks to the NIPPON Foundation of Japan, SAA has not missed a year of funding. We are now open to partnerships in the spirit of SDG 17. Program rather than project strategies and long-term funding are sustainable and the only way to realize meaningful impacts.

As I conclude, let me emphasize that we truly must be serious about tackling food insecurity in the world. Let us act more and talk less. Resources are required in large amounts and solutions must be found locally. New technologies too need to be tested locally. We know what to do. Let us get on with it, and say NO to hunger and malnutrition once and for all. Unfortunately h of malnourished hungry African children truly sadden me; they do.

I keep asking myself: when will this end? Yes, awards are good. But they are even better when those receiving them can be empowered to up-scale their unique achievements for which they have received the awards.

The papers in this issue have focused on food safety and food loss. Prof Jane Ambuko of the University of Nairobi has provided the INTRODUCTION.

We appreciate the opportunity to publish these 11 papers.


Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND


 

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