Food Insecurity in Mozambique: Going to Bed in Debt and Waking up Hungry
Food insecurity is a global problem that varies in magnitude on regional and local levels. It is also a problem that does not receive equal representation or efforts between and within nations. Some of the problems facing food insecurities, however, overlap between nations, for example, climate change, distribution of resources, and governmental roles and impacts. When compared to other nations of the world, which may or may not have dire food insecurities, Mozambique has its unique set of challenges, and some that are common with other countries.
The country’s history, health-related problems, climate, access and governmental conflicts greatly impact tackling the problem of food insecurity. However, there are several interventions that aim to make changes that will impact the country for the better, and simultaneously contribute to a seemingly evasive goal of a hunger-free world. Yet, while these interventions could potentially support Mozambique’s goal to eradicate hunger, their effectiveness are diminished by Mozambique’s debt crisis.
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Moreover, it can be arduous for Mozambique to achieve its food security goal unless the country improves its economic status and ergo ameliorate other contiguous areas. Mozambique defaults on investing in specialized education for professionals in the production of goods that are mostly imported from foreign countries, which could possibly decrease importation expenses in the long term and decrease the country’s negative net exports.
In this paper I argue that by spending less than it earns, and by balancing its budget while simultaneously avoiding massive unemployment and adjacent consequences, Mozambique could improve its economic status and international success. That, together with aid from international and national actors will empower the country to make improvements in areas such as health and agriculture and ultimately reduce food insecurity.
It is agonizingly fascinating how particular global problems lie on paradoxes; food insecurity is not an exception for this matter. While many people around the world barely have enough food to sustain their needs, many others suffer with overweight problems resulting from food abundances. Food insecurity is one of the most overwhelming concerns that troubles the world and it constitutes a target that is besieged by governments, citizens, civil organizations, and private sectors.
In 2015 all United Nations Member States adopted seventeen goals that aim to change the world and lead it toward achieving sustainable development. Goal number two was developed particularly to meet people’s needs of accessing safe and nutritious food to fulfill their necessities. The purpose of this goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030 (UN, 2015). According to the United Nations, the estimated number of undernourished people in the world increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 (UN, 2018).
In Mozambique, a Southern African country with a population of around 28 million people; 80% of the population cannot afford an adequate diet and 42.3% of children under 5 years old are stunted (UN, 2018). There are several causes that aggravate the problem of food insecurity such as natural disasters, conflicts, population growth, diseases, poverty, and economic slowdowns (WFP, 2018).
These factors can be very averse to the realization of this goal by the time frame proposed by the UN. Not only do they affect food accessibility, they also affect its production and distribution. Likewise, results of climate change and the occurrence of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and cyclones, to which Mozambique is very vulnerable, as well as problems caused by man such as deforestation and degradation also have detrimental impacts on the subsistence of Mozambique’s population and on food security, especially among rural populations (FAO, 2018).
Food Security in Mozambique: Prominent Challenges
Agriculture is the main economic activity in Mozambique and it certainly plays a crucial role in the economy. According to the National Statistics Institute (NSI), in 2014, the sector contributed 23.4% to GDP (FAO, 2018). However, the practice of a booming agriculture in Mozambique faces several challenges related to lack of modernized technology and frugal use of arable land, little agricultural expertise and little knowledge of nutritious issues, natural disasters, geopolitical problems and conflicts, poverty, and diseases (WFP, 2018).
Lack of modernized technology and frugal use of arable land: The agricultural sector is dominated by smallholder farmers rather than big commercial farmers. According to FAO, 3.2 million smallholder farmers account for 95% of Mozambique’s agricultural production (FAO, 2018). In addition, only 3.3 million hectares of the 36 million hectares of arable land is currently cultivated (UN, 2012). Although agricultural growth displays certain advantages such us reduced poverty and environmental protection, this growth can be maximized by using technology and more arable land in order to expand production and reduce food insecurity.
Little agricultural expertise and little knowledge of nutritious issues: Because the agricultural sector is dominated by small traditional farmers, irrigation systems and adequate use of agrochemicals might not be part of their practice. In addition, poor infrastructures in rural areas can also be a significant constraint to growth and productivity (Llanto, 2012).
As it was mentioned above, 80% of the population cannot afford an adequate diet and 42.3% of children under 5 years old are stunted (UN, 2018). These statistics might translate not only the economic inability to afford nutritious food but also the poor diet choices.
Geopolitical problems and Conflicts: Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. From then to 1992, the country has suffered from a civil war for 16 years. Although significant economic growth has been made since then, since 2013 the country has faced armed conflict in parts of central and southern Mozambique. Accordingly. “8,000 to 10,000 Mozambicans asylum seekers fled into Malawi and another 3,300 into south-eastern Zimbabwe.
Many have been displaced internally” (WFP, 2018). Deaton and Lipka (2015) point out that “Food Security is obtained through three primary pathways: food production, exchange for food, and food transfers […]. The effectiveness of each of these pathways requires institutions that successfully coordinate future expectations; hence, it is unsurprising that political instability and food insecurity go hand-in-hand.” These three pathways are limited by political instability, hence why conflict aggravates the problem of food insecurity.
Natural disasters: Situated next to the Indian Ocean and is downstream from many of Africa’s largest rivers, Mozambique is very prone to extreme climatic events. According to the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) recorded that between 1956 and 2016, 71 natural disasters including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and drought have disturbed the lives of millions of Mozambicans (IRIN, 2018). As a result, the impact of natural disasters such as poor soil condition for crops growth, delays and reduction of crop harvest, have a direct effect on people’s productivity thus on food security.
Poverty: Poverty and food insecurity share a vast zone of intersection. As reported in a study published in Science, “Although the most severe food insecurity is typically associated with disasters such as drought, floods, war, or earthquakes, most food insecurity is associated not with catastrophes, but rather with chronic poverty” (Barrett, 2010). The percentage of the population living in absolute poverty in Mozambique fell from 69.4% in 1996/7 to 54.1% in 2002/3 and the percentage of working poor living under $3.10 a day decreased from 97.6% in 1991 to 76.8% in 2017.
These reductions are mainly due to good agricultural performance (UN, 2018). Although these statistics translate into successful reductions, food insecurity remains a big challenge for the poor who cannot afford the minimum cost for an adequate diet (WFP, 2018). This situation is made worse with the growth of the population and the health issues that affect the country.
Diseases: A report in Clinical Infectious Diseases reported that “[the] lack of access to appropriate food and the direct effect that HIV has on impaired metabolic functions in absorption, storage, and utilization of nutrients can translate into compromised immunity, nutrient deficiencies, and increased vulnerability to infectious diseases” (Ivers et al, 2009).
The high rates of infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, as well as the lack of immunization in children can negatively interreact with HIV infections which are prevalent in the country (CDC, 2013). The combination of health problems and poor nutrition can be an enormous burden on families. The household budget is not enough to address both health crisis and essential food necessities. Low-income families experience food insecurity often because of the combination of different factors which makes maintaining a healthy diet and good health extremely difficult.
According to the United Nations Development Program, Mozambique ranks 180 out of 189 in terms of average achievements of human development (long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living) (UN, 2018). Great progress has been made since 1990, respectively the Average annual Human Development Index (HDI) grew 2.77% from then until 2017 (UN, 2018). Additionally, Mozambique’s economy has been growing at an annual average of 7.5%. However, “[Mozambique] has been ineffective and inefficient at reducing poverty and providing a broader social and economic basis for development” (Castelo-Branco, 2015).
According to the world bank organization, Mozambique’s imports between 2012 and 2016 was worth 7,908 million US dollars, while its exports were only worth 3,899 million US dollars for the same time period. These numbers translate to a 77.15% of GDP of imported goods and services and 34.76% of GDP of exported goods and services (2018).
Mozambique’s economy is far from being stable. Its negative net export is what slows down most of its progress, in my opinion. I believe that if the country spends lesser than it is currently spending in comparison to its growing rate, review and balance its budget while simultaneously avoiding massive unemployment and adjacent consequences, the country could improve its economic status and international success.
In addition, I think that investing on an education that devotes to specialize professionals in the production of goods that are mostly imported from foreign countries, is a strategic way to increase production and decrease imports in the long term. All these measures together with aid from international and national actors will empower the country to make improvements in areas such as health and agriculture and ultimately reduce food insecurity.
There are several programs that aim to assist developing countries around the world in achieving sustainable goals, respectively: United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO), and others. Mozambique has made significant progress with international aid, and much more is expected due to the assistance given to the country such as support for small farmers and food-insecure families, and the support to the Ministries of Health and Education to carry on projects of development. The WFP for instance has been supporting the government since 1977 with the aim to reduce hunger and improve food security and nutrition (WFP, 2018).
Specific interventions include: support for prioritized implementation of nutrition-sensitive interventions; support to the Ministry of education and Human Development towards a school meal program; support to food-insecure families, including refugees and those affected by natural disasters; support to smallholder farmers with a focus on women; support to preparedness, planning, management and coordination capacities of the National Directorate of Disaster Management; together with UNICEF, WFP also supports Mozambique’s Ministry of health in a wasting rehabilitation program. The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation have provided funds to assist victims of natural disasters, to improve lives and expand cotton production, and to fight malaria
These actors as well as other country donors have made it possible for Mozambique to make improvements on combating hunger and extreme poverty and thus make improvements on the problem of food insecurity.
Eradicating food insecurity to alleviate the pain of those suffering and dying from hunger and its related causes is related to achievement of other sustainable goals: Interventions in agricultural development and nutrition aim to close the socio-economic gaps between developed nations and developing nations and sequentially reduce inequalities, to achieve sustainable development, and, finally, to make significant progress in areas of development such as education and health which are closely tied to the problem of food insecurity.
The main challenges inhibiting sustainable development and the reduction of food insecurity in Mozambique lie on the high level of poverty and the inability of people to meet their dietary needs, population growth and health issues affecting the population, and lack of agricultural modernization and expertise.
Mozambique has a great potential for growth in the agricultural sector. Its collaboration with outside nations or even countries within Africa that are in a more favorable situation is crucial to maximize its agricultural potential. Other measures that would lead to improvements are: the development systems that incentivize farmers to get an education on large scale production; incentives from the government to facilitate farmers to acquire land to do large scale production; as well as developing other economic boosters that would take some of the strain off of agriculture, for example the development of vehicles since it is an imported product.
In summary, it is possible to end hunger in Mozambique and in the world. If economic improvements are made, if more monetary resources and human resources are available to address the problem of food insecurity, then no one would ever go to bed in dept and wake up hungry.