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On a daily basis, first world countries worry about warfare, competing with other nations, and improving technology to better conditions. Despite living in a world where these near ideal countries exist, some nations still struggle with the ability to provide some of the most basic vital needs to its citizens. Africa, home to a plethora of cultures, is one region that has struggled with food security throughout history. Although other countries may overlook leftover food being tossed into landfills, some people, including many Africans, cannot afford such a luxury. These millions of Africans, who live day by day unsure of where their next meal will come from, suffer from a malady of directly related problems. It was estimated in 2010 that 239 million people in Africa were undernourished, an astonishing number when compared to the total number of hungry people in the world: 925 million (‘Africa Hunger and Poverty Facts”). Undernourishment causes Africans to not receive the necessary nutrients for their bodies to grow and develop, and can be blamed for causing young children to look like skin and bones. The hunger crisis in Africa needs to be eradicated, because it is debilitating to the development of the continent, and the commonwealth of its people.
Foremost, education in Africa has been stymied because of the hunger crisis across the continent. Despite education being an area of focus by other countries who are eager for the continent to become as advanced as others in the world, this advancement is unattainable without food security. Young children ‘s brains are in need of sufficient nutrients to grow and develop. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper development, and without them, children may suffer serious setbacks including learning disabilities. Additionally, without food, students do not receive the sufficient energy needed in order to make it through a school day. Emily Walthouse, a blogger at The Borgen Project, a campaign to improve lives globally, states that “Food is the fuel necessary to get through a normal day” (Walthouse). Calories, the main source of energy from food, is necessary to carry out daily activities. Memory, concentration, and the ability to stay attentive during instruction, are major components of education which fall victim to malnutrition because they thrive off of the availability of energy from calories.
How it works
Poor attendance is a second issue which can halt learning, and is influenced by malnutrition. Malnutrition restricts the body ‘s ability to maintain a sufficient immune system because the necessary nutrients are unavailable (Walthouse). So, the body is more vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flus. These illnesses prevent children from attending school, thus the children are incapable of becoming more intelligent as they are not being taught any material while absent. Similarly, children are not able to learn as effectively because malnutrition causes a variety of psychological effects. Depression, anxiety, and withdrawal, serve as “obstructions to a child trying to focus on education” (Walthouse). These issues often lead to behavioral issues, which can ultimately effect the entire learning environment inside of a classroom. The teacher and the other students, can become distracted causing their learning to be severely affected. And in that situation, many people, not just one, face the consequences of hunger.
Together, these setbacks on education due to hunger and malnutrition have a major impeding impact on Africa’s ability to become more advanced. Without proper education, the continent’s civilians are not able to produce goods that are easily manufactured around the world. For example, factories in America, China, and Japan have been constructing vehicles for decades. However, Africans do not have the training, nor education, necessary in order for competition with other nations around the world. So they are forced to remain a third-world country until their hunger crisis is under control, education increases, and means of production is advanced enough, and capable enough, to provide for the millions of people on the continent. It is not until then, where Africans will have a booming economy and a competitive world market. All of these factors stem from the ability to feed the civilians and allow them to be educated.
The hunger crisis in Africa has a variety of different factors which have all contributed to the depravity of the situation. One main factor is that Africa is too poor to be able to sustain its agricultural needs. According to a study in 2002, it was estimated that 41 percent of Africans live on a salary equivalent to less than one dollar a day, a salary that has increased minimally over the past decade (Sanchez). Exploitation by other countries has had a major impact on Africa by halting the ability to use its own natural resources to its benefit. Rich in oil, and minerals, such as diamond, Africa has been a target for centuries, dating back to the 1800’s when the Berlin Conference took place.
This conference split Africa into zones in order for European nations to colonize and take advantage of Africa’s surplus of natural resources. Despite being approximately 200 years ago, this trend continues to occur presently. Nations have infiltrated Africa to seek their own benefits and fortune. Powerful corporations are able to be successful while doing this because Africa is incapable of redistributing its resources (‘Causes of Poverty In Africa”). So, these corporations take away African materials to make money, which very rarely makes its way back to Africa itself. Moreover, the poverty in Africa is caused by Because of the prevalent poverty, Africa does not contain the capital needed in order to produce the food that the country needs. Farms aren’t able to receive adequate supplies with little money to grow their crops, thus there is not ample food available to feed every person sufficiently in the continent.
Likewise, the unequal distribution of products has led to some areas of the continent becoming more undernourished than others. The lack of infrastructure, more specifically roads, has hindered the ability to transport goods to various regions in Africa. According to Elise Riley, “there are often no reliable pathways for getting that food from the fields into that hands of the people who need it the most,” a statement which is startling, yet ultimately true (Riley). The situation is so severe, that only 34 percent of rural Africa has access to roads (‘Roads in Sub-Saharan Africa.’). This leads to isolation of certain regions, thus forcing those regions to become self-sufficient. They are forced to create their own farms and feed all of the people, tasks that require a lot of crop yield and money. If roads were available, however, distribution would increase, along with trade. If one area is able to produce more crops than another, the available roads could allow for the transport of food to feed those in need. Hence providing the people in Africa with a more reliable supply of food, thus eliminating, in part, starvation faced by millions.
Similarly, the continuation of the increase in population in Africa, has had a major consequence on the hunger crisis. Logically, if there is a large amount of people in a continent, then more resources are needed to feed everyone. Currently Sub-Saharan Africa contains about 1.1 billion people, but those numbers are expected to increase extremely over the next couple of decades (Lazuta). In fact, according to the Population Reference Bureau, by 2050, “Africa ‘s population is likely to grow by a staggering 1.3 billion people” (Lazuta). Despite how unrealistic these projections may seem, it is completely possible mainly due to the large birth rates in Africa. On average an African woman gives birth to “5.2 children during their lifetime, compared to averages of 1.6 in Europe and 1.9 in North America” (Lazuta). It some areas, shockingly, the average is even higher for amount of children. For example, Niger has an average birthrate of 7.6 children per woman (Lazuta). As the number of children increases, there are more woman born who are able to have children. This relationship accounts for the rapid increase in population. This creates problems with hunger because as the amount of people in Africa increase, the agricultural production does not always increase at an adjacent rate. So, there is an increase in the number of mouths to feed, but not enough food produced in order to meet the needs. Thus, causing increased hunger and starvation.
Despite Africa’s serious hunger crisis, the continent wastes a colossal amount of food. Although the waste is not intentional, it still increases the negative effects of hunger faced by millions. Food which could be used to feed millions is thrown away. The Food and Agriculture Organization in 2011 estimated that Africa’s loss of food could have fed “at least 48 million people” (Nforngwa). One reason to why this occurs is because food is not stored nor transported properly. When fruits and vegetables are transported in trucks, they are packed very tightly in order to transport the maximum amount of food. However, this causes fresh produce to become “bruised,” “rotted,” and not suitable for being consumed (Nforngwa). Secondly, food is forced to be discarded because of pest infestations, and climate effects.
Many places in Africa do not have the proper storage facilities to keep food fresh. Farmers are then forced to store their food in more traditional barns which do not have air-regulation or containment away from pests. In consequence, insects are able to infest the products, and the harsh, hot, humid climate in Africa takes a devastating toll on the crops. Insects are also wreaking havoc on the food situation by ruining crops before they are even harvested. Throughout the continent, farmers face plant-eating worms and insects. Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique are three of many countries in Africa that have faced this problem in recent years. Army worms and red locusts have caused major damage to crops and have forced farmers to replant some of their crops mid-season (‘Crop-eating Pests Plague Southern African Farmers.’). This causes the projected crop yield for farmers to be much lower than expected, and the supply of food for civilians to fall short. Africans who may have thought they would be food secure due to their crops, face hunger because of the lack of resources produced by local farmers.
The production of food is also hindered by soil infertility which has caused hunger in Africa. Over the past decades, farmers in Africa have been replenishing their soil improperly, which is now causing difficulties with crop yield. Farmers have been depleting their soil of its nutrients and have not used “sufficient quantities of manure or fertilizer to replenish the soil” (Sanchez). This has caused the presence of vital nutrients in the soil such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to not be present in copious of amounts. Without these elements, farmers are not able to maximize their crop yield, preventing the distribution of crops that could be given to someone who is in desperate need of food. In order to resolve this issue, it is necessary that Africans use mineral fertilizers. Other nations have the ability to overcome soil infertility by using this method, however Africans face an additional challenge. The mineral fertilizer costs “two to six times as much as those in Europe, North America, or Asia” (Sanchez). Most farmers does not have enough money in order to pay for the fertilizer, so they are forced to deal with the unfortunate soil conditions, and continue to let the continent suffer from hunger.
Due to the abundance of causes for the hunger crisis in Africa, eliminating starvation is extremely difficult. However, there are multiple approaches which could begin to alleviate the struggle for millions. One way to accomplish this is to introduce different agroforestry systems. This means to plant “fertilizer trees” which are beneficial to improving soil conditions (Place). There are multiple ways to accomplish this: planting mature trees into fields, rotations with crops, and by taking biomass from trees and delivering it to fields. Once farmers begin to use any of these strategies, they will be rewarded because of the many benefits associated with fertilizer trees.
First off, crop yields will increase dramatically as the soil conditions will improve. Trees can recycle nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, from lower soil depths, reversing the effects of not replenishing the soil with fertilizer (Place). Also, the trees prevent soil erosion and improve moisture levels and water filtration throughout the soil. Altogether, these can provide the crops with the necessary nutrients to grow and thrive. Thus, increasing the amount of beneficial resources needed to feed families. Furthermore, “the shading effects of fertilizer trees can be beneficial during the dry season” (Place). The shade produced by fertilizer trees can significantly diminish the number of weeds and the temperature of the soil, again, increasing the crop yield. This information has been tested, and proven to be true. In a study conducted in 2008, Sileshi, a man from Oxford, tested the benefits of agroforestry systems on maize crop. In his findings, he recorded that in almost “two-thirds [of his trials] doubled maize yields” (Place). It is up to farmers to incorporate this practice into their regime in order to feed more mouths in Africa.
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