Shock Food Security stats shared in Inaugural Lecture
There is no beauty in hunger, there is no creativity in hunger, there is only shame. And the shame of hunger is that something can be done about it.
These sobering words by Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wisiel, were quoted by Professor Paramu Mafongoya at his Inaugural Lecture held recently on the Pietermaritzburg campus.
In his address, Mafongoya - who holds the South African National Research Foundation Research Chair in Agronomy and Rural Development and is based at UKZN - tackled the challenge of food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa.
He quoted the following shock statistics: 805 million people are chronically hungry in the developing world, 165 million are stunted and carry that burden, while two billion people suffer from vitamin and micro-nutrient deficiency. For a billion people, food and nutrition insecurity is due to poverty and lack of access to food. Food and nutrition security is a meta-challenge.
‘Making sure there is enough food for the world’s growing human population is one of the most important humanitarian challenges of our time,’ he said. ‘The world will need to feed nine billion people by 2050, which means that food production needs to increase by 60 to110 percent.’
Mafongoya explained that people who did not have enough food to meet their nutritional requirement for a healthy and active life were said to be food insecure. ‘The largest group of food insecure people is in sub-Saharan Africa (24% of the population).’
Mafongoya expounded on factors that influenced food security, including food availability, access, utilisation and stability. ‘Challenges to food availability are infertile soils, low productivity and climate shocks and variability. Access is influenced by climate change and food price spikes, while stability is affected by political stability, markets and climate change. Utilisation of food is affected by household infrastructure, education and nutrition, water and sanitation as well as climate change.’
Mafongoya’s research contribution to food security and future directions has been significant. With a PhD in Forestry and Natural Resources Management (Agro-forestry) from the University of Florida in the United State, he has over 30 years’ experience working with various international organisations and universities in the areas of agricultural research, development, education, and integrated natural resources management.
As a reviewer of several Elsevier journals and other international journals, he has been instrumental in ensuring and maintaining the quality of scientific literature by determining merits, novelty and originality of work submitted for publication.
Mafongoya has supervised many undergraduate and post graduate students at various universities and in various disciplines such as agroforestry, agronomy, soil science, crop sciences and integrated natural resource management. He is a member of several professional societies and is a Fellow of the Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences.
He has been invited to present keynote papers at various international, regional and national forums and he has served on several boards.
Mafongoya ended his inaugural UKZN lecture on a positive note: ‘The good news is that after many years of neglect, agriculture and food security are back on the development and political agenda,’ he said. He believes this is essential if we are to beat the scourge of food and nutrition insecurity in Africa.