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Food on the table and food for all. Food security as a tool to combat violent extremism

  • Date: 30/11/2022 08:00 AM - 30/11/2022 08:00 AM
  • Location University Of Ghana, Accra, Ghana (Map)
  • More Info: WACCBIP Auditorium



Professor Richard Jinks Bani

2022 Food Security Lectures

30th November 2022

WACCBIP Auditorium, University of Ghana


 As far back as 1974 all 36 members of the UN World Food Council pledged to  "create a world without hunger, a world in which no child no child will go to bed hungry, no family need fear its next day’s bread and no human being’s future would be stunted by malnutrition

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. (World Food Summit, 1996) the components of food security are defined as follows: 

Food availability: The availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports (including food aid). 

Food access: Access by individuals to adequate resources (entitlements) for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Entitlements are defined as the set of all commodity bundles over which a person can establish command given the legal, political, economic and social arrangements of the community in which they live (including traditional rights such as access to common resources).

Achieving food security in its totality continues to be a challenge to both developing and the developed countries. The problem needs to target food security interventions, including food relief and subsidized food production which reduces food insecurity in these regions. Food security is affected by a complexity of factors. They include unsustainable economic growth, political instability, imbalances in trade, natural resource constraints, gender inequality, inadequate education and poor health which contribute to food insecurity


There are two basic ways to make enough food available to all. The first is to increase production and the second is to protect the harvest.

Increase production

Increased production involves several related activities

Availability of suitable land: for most of production is done by peasant farmers with land sizes of 2 hectares or less. The nutrient status of these fields may not have been determined and production is done on the same land season after season because land is becoming scarce and the fallow system is being abandoned. The small holder farmers produce about 80% of the food crops and therefore they should be the focus of policy interventions.

Water supply: Most of production is water dependent on rainfall which has become very unpredictable because of the effects of climate change. Water is important in Agriculture because it is used for irrigation, as drinking water for livestock, for spraying chemicals and general sanitation purposes. Sources of water include streams and rivers and extraction from underground by borehole and dugouts. Large farms must be planned around streams and rivers in order to have sustainable water supply.

Mechanization: Peasant farmers are not well resourced to be able to acquire the mechanization services required for land preparation and other farm operations. With large labor costs and its irregular availability can impact on food production.

Improved inputs: quality of seeds and other inputs   affect the level of production. Growing high yielding crops coupled with optimal application of fertilizers will produce large increases in crop output. The challenge here is to get the high yielding varieties adopted and the farmer’s ability buy. Using high yielding seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals will undoubtably aid in obtaining higher yields. It is time the local seed industry is expanded and supported to produce improved seeds for farmers

 Often times due to inappropriate use of these synthetic fertilizers soil many productive soils have been thwarted in their ability to function and this has negative effect on soil health and soil related ecosystem services and these have negative effect on crop output. An alternative method to improve the soils include the use of bio-fertilizers. A compound fertilizer comprising Axially, Rhizobia and Mycorrhiza can make a formidable environmentally friendly source of crop nutrients throughout the Developing Countries and will go a long way towards decreasing our dependence on chemical fertilizers.

Protection of the Harvest

The second important method of making more food available is to reduce postharvest losses. The crop enters the postharvest train from the time it is detached from the parent plant until the point of consumption. During this journey there is a constant fight between the producers (farmers) and non- producers which include molds, fungus, insects, rodents, birds and humans (thieves). The activities of these living organisms will cause quantitative, qualitative and nutritional losses in both perishable and durable crops. Other causes of losses include natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and fire outbreak. Inappropriate storage both on farm and off farm, transport infrastructure, packaging and the absence of cold chain facilities all contribute to the loss of food.

Significance of losses

In African countries, Postharvest losses have been estimated to range between 20% and 40% in grains and higher figures quoted for perishables which is highly significant considering the low agricultural productivity in several regions of Africa. According to the World Bank report, sub-Saharan Africa alone loses food grains worth about USD 4 billion every year. These losses play a critical role in influencing the life of millions of smallholder farmers by impacting the available food volumes and trade-in values of the commodities. In addition to economic and social implications, postharvest losses also impact the environment, as the land, water and energy (agricultural inputs) used to produce the lost food are also wasted along with the food. Unutilized food also results in extra CO2 emissions, eventually affecting the environment. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) using the life cycle perspective, estimated about 3.3 Gtons of CO2 equivalent emissions due to food that was produced but not eaten, without even considering the land use change. Similarly, the land used to grow the food is another valuable resource that goes to waste due to these losses. It is not only the food that is wasted but the resources used to produce the food. No matter the loss figures quoted in literature it is imperative that something drastic is done to put more food on the table by minimizing the losses even if it is 5%.

A lot of research has been done globally of postharvest losses and development technologies to minimize losses both on small and large scales. There are numerous organizations who have engaged and continue to engage in postharvest research and development but it’s now the time to commit resources to the implementation of recommendations that have been written boldly in the numerous documents on postharvest losses.

Postharvest losses have been on the Agenda of the UN since 1975 and there must be shift of emphasis and a determined will of stakeholders to address food losses.


The Council heard the statement of the Assistant Director-General, Agriculture Department, reviewing measures being taken to reduce post-harvest food losses. The Council recalled that the Seventh Special Session of the UN General Assembly, September 1975, had resolved that the further reduction of these losses should be undertaken as a matter of priority. It also recalled that the Eighteenth FAO Conference Session, November 1975, by Resolution 12/75, had stressed that high priority should be given to post-harvest conservation of food.

The Council emphasized the importance of reducing post-harvest food losses and requested that further prompt action be taken. It concurred in the proposal that the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) should consider this subject in depth at its Fourth Session in April 1977, as one of its selected development problems. The Council requested the Secretariat to present a working document on the subject to the Committee on Agriculture. This document should define the problems and describe the objectives and main elements of the activities to be carried out by countries, FAO and other organizations, and indicate the resources being applied and needed. The Council stressed that the reduction of post-harvest food losses should not be considered in isolation, but as an added effort to those ongoing activities aimed at the reduction of pre-harvest and harvest losses.

 The Council noted a proposal for establishing a US $ 20 million fund to finance an assistance program to reduce pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest food losses. It concurred with the Director-General that COAG should study the feasibility of the proposal for such a fund and report further to the Council. Toward that end the Council authorized the Director-General to take action on preparing a specific proposal for consideration by COAG and the Programe and Finance Committees.

We also have the 2014 Malabo declaration

Commitment to Ending Hunger in Africa by 2025 

We commit to ending hunger in Africa by 2025, and to this end we resolve:

 a) to accelerate agricultural growth by at least doubling current agricultural productivity levels, by the year 2025. In doing so, we will create and enhance the necessary appropriate policy and institutional conditions and support systems to facilitate:

 • sustainable and reliable production and access to quality and affordable inputs (for crops, livestock, fisheries, amongst others) through, among other things, provision of ‘smart’ protection to smallholder agriculture;

 • supply of appropriate knowledge, information, and skills to users;

 • efficient and effective water management systems notably through irrigation; • suitable, reliable and affordable mechanization and energy supplies, amongst other

b) to halve the current levels of Post-Harvest Losses, by the year 2025;

 c) to integrate measures for increased agricultural productivity with social protection initiatives focusing on vulnerable social groups through com

Reference to these two declarations highlights the importance the international community places on the reduction of postharvest losses.

Its up to us to draw up programs to achieve these targets.

Access to food

Food availability is secured through local production, the market or trade. Even when the food is available, the ability for households to access it depends on their having the means to produce or income to buy the food, as well as social and family relations that guarantee access to food. Social relations-based access to food is in the form of income remittances from family and friends, food aid and specific government social interventions targeting the vulnerable in society. Access to food can be physical, social or economic. The accessible food must be of good quality, safe, and culturally acceptable for it to be utilized by the consumers. There must also be stable supply of food for each person and household throughout the year and over several years. Individuals and households differ considerably with respect to access to food. This can be related to differences in resource availability (land, labor, capital, cattle, etc.) to produce food, social and natural disasters, lack of purchasing power to buy food, high food prices, or poor social and family relations (intra-family strife). One or a combination of all these would make an individual food insecure.

Skills training and a program to provide alternate sources of livelihood may provide opportunities for additional resources for food purchases.

Stability: To be food secure, a population, household or individual must have access to adequate food at all times. They should not risk losing access to food as a consequence of sudden shocks (e.g., an economic or climatic crisis or natural disasters) or cyclical events (e.g., seasonal food insecurity). The concept of stability can therefore refer to both the availability and access dimensions of food security. The more food that is produced and the less that is lost coupled with proper and efficient distribution channels would provide stability in food supply.

Food utilization

 Utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met. This brings out the importance of non-food inputs in food security.  The food must be whole to start with, it must be prepared under sanitary condition with clean water where applicable. The cooking process must not compromise vitamins and other minerals required for a nutritious meal. These would become possible when efforts are made at improving the quality of life across the country through the provision of electricity, portable water, schools, hospitals and motorable roads.

Food preferences

 Food preferences have biological, psychological, anthropological, cultural, and sociological implications. They are primary determinant of dietary intake and dietary behaviors, and they persist into later life on what is nutritionally right for their age/age category, gender, income level, and or class and these choices are basically influenced by the culture. examples of these influences that contribute to an individual's food choices include individual factors, such as knowledge, personal taste preference, mood, hunger level, health status, special diet requirements, ethnicity, and personal income.

Buffer stocks

Purpose of buffer stocks

For meeting the prescribed minimum buffer stock required for food security

For periodic release of food grains for supply through selected distribution Systems and special programs

For meeting emergency situations arising out of unexpected crop failure, natural disasters, etc.

For the purpose of Price stabilization or market intervention to augment supply, so as to help moderate the open market prices and improve accessibility

The crops are bought from farmers who have in excess of domestic requirements and large-scale commercial farmers so that the farmers do not lose as a result of postharvest losses.

In times of deficit, government releases the buffer stocks in a phased manner so that interests of the consumers do not suffer, and they are able to meet their nutritional requirements at reasonable prices

Population and food security

Food production depends on croplands and water supply, which are normally under strain as human populations increase. Pressure on limited land resources, driven in part by population growth, can mean expansion of cropland. This often involves destruction of vital forest resources or overexploitation of arable land with dire consequences on climate change.

There would be a lot of food to go round if we protect the harvest, create appropriate distribution channels, and empower the population to have access and at affordable price. There would be no need to institute birth control programs to curb population growth as a means to attain food security.