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Opinion: Invest in women to halve Africa's hunger

Support to Africa's hardworking female farmers will reap bountiful harvests.

But from 2000 to 2005, African governments nearly doubled their agricultural spending, but still allocated it only around 5 percent of their national budgets — about $8.7 billion in 2005.

In the same period, donor aid to agriculture in Africa stalled at around $1 billion per year, falling below 4 percent of total aid to Africa.

Though in the past few years, African governments have increased their spending on agriculture to an average of 6.6 percent.

As much as this is commendable, experts say it is not enough.

ActionAid’s research shows that all eight African countries that spent more than 10 percent of their budgets on agriculture during 2004-07 have reduced the proportion of hungry people over the last decade.

They include Ethiopia, which reduced hunger from 63 percent to 46 percent between 1995 and 2005, and Malawi, which reduced it from 45 percent to 29 percent.

At the U.N. Millennium Review Summit this year, supporting women farmers must be the focus of coherent national plans to make a five-year breakthrough against hunger, backed by allocation of at least 10 percent of the government budget to agriculture.

Donors must commit to underwriting all credible national plans for halving hunger, and covering any shortfall beyond developing countries’ efforts.

Governments must develop robust national breakthrough plans for halving hunger by 2015 through a massive scale-up of public goods provided particularly to women farmers and other smallholders.