Source: (6)

The map shows the food insecurity situation in Southern Africa (2014-2015)

Definitions of Food security

Food security has a variety of definitions. Central to these definitions are issues of food availability, access and utilization (3). The World Food Summit adopted the following definition, “Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (2). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, food insecurity exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to food as defined above .

Dimensions of Food Security

Food availability side of the food security and expects sufficient quantities of quality food from domestic agriculture production or import. Focuses on whether the food available in certain territory/country is enough to feed the total population in that territory (3).Dimensions

Food access encompasses enough resources and physical capacity to acquire appropriate quantity of quality foods.

Food utilisation It also covers the food preparation, intra-household food distribution, water and sanitation and health care practices. The nutritional outcome of the food eaten by an individual will be appropriate and optimum only when food is prepared/cooked properly, there is adequate diversity of the diet and proper feeding and caring practices are practiced.
Stability of availability, accessibility and proper utilization condition is important. Instability of market price of staple food and inadequate risk baring capacity of the people in the case of adverse condition (natural disaster, unexpected weather ), political instability and unemployment are the major factors affecting stability of the dimensions of food security (7).

What causes food Insecurity in Africa?

El Niño-induced weather patterns and conflicts were the main drivers of intensified food insecurity in 2016 (2) . The persistent nature of these drivers, and their associated impacts, has weakened households’ capacity to cope, undermining their resilience and ability to recover from future shocks.

Conflict and civil strife

Conflicts result in displacement and destruction of livelihoods, limited income-generating activities, and reduced own production and asset depletion exacerbated by recurring looting and theft as well as sharply reduced market activity and high food prices (2). The acute and wide-reaching effects of conflicts left significant numbers of food insecure people in need of urgent assistance in South Sudan (4.9 million); Somalia (2.9 million); northeast Nigeria (4.7 million), Burundi (2.3 million) and Central African Republic (2 million) in 2016 (2).

Climate change
In some countries, food security has been undermined by El Niño, which largely manifested in drought conditions that damaged agricultural livelihoods (2). The countries most affected are in eastern and southern Africa and including Somalia, Ethiopia (9.7 million), Madagascar (0.8 million in the Grand Sud), Malawi (6.7 million), Mozambique (1.9 million) and Zimbabwe (4.1 million) (2). Projections for early 2018 indicate an increase in the severity of food insecurity in these regions.

Impacts of food insecurity



Poverty: Food insecurity undermine the ability people to participate in production that require hard labour (agriculture)




Risky survival behaviours Food insecurity increases the level of social ills such as theft, corruption and high levels of prostitution. In southern Africa many girls are at risk of HIV/AIDS because of hunger.


Malnutrition in Ethiopia affects the 2.7 million people who are acutely food insecure and Africa is the region with the highest number of malnourished people (2). According to USAID, being food insecure implies two meanings: one, that these people do not have a stable access to food due to either manmade or natural conditions like droughts, and two, that they receive the most basic food needs through food or cash transfers


Violence ” A hungry mob is an angry mob”
Hunger and food insecurity can create feelings of anger, rise to more broadly held grievances, hopelessness, unfairness and a lack of social justice among sectors of the population (2). Apart from that food insecurity can also contribute to violence, and may act as a channel through which wider socio-economic and political grievances are expressed. Food insecurity may also help to sustain conflict and hence promote chronic food insecurity.

The picture below shows food riots and violence triggered by severe food shortages in Somaliariots

Food aid, Harmful or a relief for Africa?

After decades of providing food aid, donor countries have not succeeded in eradicating hunger in Africa. Critics argue that food aid is not always aimed at reducing hunger http://www. globalpolicy. org/socecon/hunger/relief/2008/01wahlberg. htm. Donor countries often use food aid to promote their own interests. Most donations to Africa are potentially harmful GM crops. However, short-term, interventions to improve food access are critical.

Rather than focusing on food aid there is need to address the  root causes of food insecurity. Long-term solutions must include investment in agricultural development and livelihood diversification (1, 4, 5). There is need for reformations to be made on the unjust globalized system of agricultural production and trade (4). This system currently favours large corporate agriculture and export-oriented crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and agriculture oriented to local needs (4).



  1. Devereux, S. (2009). Why does famine persist in Africa? Food Security, 1:25 � 35.

2 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2017.The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Building resilience for peace and food security. Rome, FAO

  1. FEWS NET (2011) SOMALIA: Food Security Update, September 5, 2011. Accessed October 11, 2011 at:

4  Funk CC, Brown ME (2009) Declining global per capita agricultural production and warming oceans threaten food security. Food Security, 1:271�289
5 Funk CC, Dettinger MD, Michaelsen JC, Verdin JP, Brown ME, Barlow M, Hoell A (2008) Warming of the Indian Ocean threatens eastern and southern African food security but could be mitigated by agricultural development. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA, 105:11081�11086

6 Myers, N. and Kent, J., 2015. Food and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa. Environmentalist, 21(1), pp.41-69.

7 World Health Organization (2011). Food security. Accessed October 21, 2011 at: