Mr Feruzi Ngwamba, Coordinator of the Access Programme within the College of Humanities, and Member of the University Research and Ethics Committee (UREC), was recently a panelist at the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature webinar on Strengthening resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent.
In his presentation, Ngwamba argued that ‘in dealing with any challenge affecting Africa we must first, start from the beginning because most of the African problems are directly or indirectly linked to the past. Many commentators normally look at Africa from colonial to the post-colonial era, ignoring the pre-colonial era, misdiagnosing African problems.’
Ngwamba suggested that to fully understand the root causes of food insecurity, he posits three fundamental questions: Was Africa affected by food insecurity during the pre-colonial era? When did Africa have food insecurity? Why is food insecurity prevalent now?
He argued that ‘Europeans divided Africa between themselves to prevent conflict from the increased competition of natural resources. They introduced colonial administrations in Africa which initiated and implemented policies that distracted and undermined the traditional agricultural systems and food production.’
According to Ngwamba, these policies allowed colonial administration to secure land and labour for export crop production, confiscated African farmer’s arable land and access to land became difficult for indigenous people. He noted that Africans who had access to land were forced to produce crops for export, food acquisition for mines, public works and colonial administration.
Ngwamba highlighted that the discovery of mineral throughout the continent led to the establishment of mines in which removal of Africans from productive lands to unproductive land was forced. This led to a decline in household food needs. This, said Ngwamba, was the introduction of the cash crop economy in Africa which marked the beginning of food insecurity in the continent.
‘The post-colonial leaders failed to deal with food security related challenges because the former colonial masters ensured that they protect their interest in their former colonies, thus the land question was not solved. The African political elites who took over the post-colonial administration did not restructure the agricultural systems and food production, they distanced themselves from “African solutions to African Problems.” Most of the African countries who were once exporters of food are now declining in per capita food production,’ explained Ngwamba.
He identified that ‘the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) agricultural policies imposed on developing countries in the early 1990s and Structural Adjustment Programmes, adversely affected the African agricultural sector, with many countries not recovering.’
Ngwamba said, ‘Currently, many African countries have not prioritized agricultural investment, and have failed to modernize the sector. To deal with food insecurity, African countries should prioritize the agricultural sector by investing in it, modernizing and retransforming the sector. The land question should be resolved carefully to avoid what happened in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.’