Food security was one of the hottest topics debated during the second term of president Kabbah’s rule as his focus was on food security, promising us that by the end of his era no Sierra Leone would go to bed hungry. Did he achieve his dream, I’m afraid not. At present the number of Sierra Leoneans who cannot afford three meals a day has increased.
Food security is difficult for an African country to achieve due to bad governance and conflicts. Food security is not only the production, but the transportation and preservation of the produce and products. Sierra Leone has very bad road network and about 80% of the country lacks electricity thereby making it difficult to achieve success.
The meaning of food security is the availability of food and one’s access to it. A household is considered food secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. They are able to eat what they want at every given time than what is available at a given time.
About 852 million people are chronically hungry due to extreme poverty, while about 2 billion lack food security intermittently due to varying degrees of poverty. Sierra Leone is facing increased grain cost because they are unable to utilize their agricultural land for production. The demand for rice and other grains in the world market has increased due to more production of bio-fuel, climate change and increase population.
China and India have pushed up the price of grain export because they want to reduce rice exportation due to their increased population.
In 2007, we saw how the price of rice shot up. That increase really affected Sierra Leone, but had no effect on China and India as they have enough for their citizens to live with. At present these two countries rice export are very small. China export just about 5 percent of the rice they produce and India about eight percent.
This is to tell us that we have to put more effort in our food production if we want to alleviate poverty. We have the land, we have the labor but we do not have a government with the innovation and vision to push the country back to 1961 when we were self sufficient and exporting rice.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain food security in a world beset by confluence phenomena like crude oil, water supply, grain shortage and fish. Half of the world’s population is urban residents and any disruption of farm supplies will precipitate urban food crisis. The developed countries are protecting their supply, the developing countries are doing the same, so we who are living in the under developed world are at the mercy of God.
In China, I saw what food security is. The supplies of every commodity in the markets are regular, of high quality and very affordable. I was able to eat what I want at any time for affordable prices. Food is a necessity especially when we talk of meat, chicken and pork. Every Chinese is able to afford them regardless of his or her status.
In china, I can afford to eat them regularly. Milk is a priority for every Chinese to drink as it is available in powdered and liquid form. In fact it is part of their greetings to ask you ‘have you eaten?’ because they expect everybody should be able to eat at all times.
Electricity is available round the clock, all kinds of transportations are available and the money to acquire food is available, so at the end one should be food secured daily.
The fundamental human rights rights to food, shelter, clothing, electricity and water are at maximum, even though they do not practice democracy with the freedoms of association, speech etc.
The ongoing global credit crunch is another problem affecting us now, most of the donor countries are now on recession and they have to solve their own problems before thinking of us. This is now affecting our aid to the country. Because we want to live like babies at the age of 48, this is the end result. Despite a boom in commodity prices, food security is still becoming complex topic everyday, standing at the intersection of many disciplines.
Sierra Leone has about 60 percent of its population living in the rural areas. In that context, agricultural development among small farmers and landless people provides a livelihood for people allowing them the opportunity to stay in their communities. In the provinces, land ownership is not available to all of us in the country, thus, people who want or need to farm commercially has to turn their attention on other businesses.
The land tenure system is what has been affecting Africa’s growth especially Sierra Leone. No country with such land laws will ever develop. Developed countries with China, India and Brazil inclusive have no such laws as they are detrimental to development.
Acquiring land should be one of the easiest laws in a country and should be controlled by the government and not chiefs. There are many Sierra Leoneans in and out of the country who have the know how, the finance and contact to invest in Agriculture, but the hopeless land laws in the provinces just turn them away to other countries or they keep their money.
But the politicians, majority coming from the provinces traveled the length and breadth of this world and they know how other countries have succeeded, but because of wickedness and greed, they are refusing to change for the sake of their own people who are affected the most.
FAO has defined food security as when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for active and healthy life. United States Department of Agriculture defined it as access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies.
With these definitions, who will convince me that Sierra Leone is 70 percent food secured as was reported by the former government? They were just making mockery of themselves. What is the current government planning to do, are they building on the effort by their predecessor or have they abandoned the idea. Let us be truthful to ourselves; how can we be food sufficient when nutritious food are more of a privilege than necessity.
The stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine. Famine and hunger are both rooted in food insecurity. Food insecurity can be categorized as either chronic or transitory. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability. Chronic hunger is not famine. It is similar to undernourishment and is related to poverty, existing mainly in poor countries.
How many households in Sierra Leone can afford to drink milk every day, how many people can afford to eat meat and chicken everyday? The average Sierra Leone wakes up in the morning and can only afford a plate of rice and cassava leaves for Le600. He eats the same afternoon and in the evening. What are the nutrients that are available in that daily diet, when he is sick, can the body resist for long?
The migration of rural people to the urban should have been a concern long since for our governments, but they fail to understand why the migration is so popular now.
The rural areas lack every thing humanly possible, no clean water, poor housing facilities, poor toilets, no entertainment and lack of transportation.
I saw it with my own eyes when in 1997; when the rebels were invited by AFRC. The young boys from RUF in front of Sierra Leone Commercial Bank were startled to see such building and they were asking if it would not fall when the wind blows. Most of them didn’t want to go even when ECOMOG were pursuing them because they have seen development.
The media has been reporting regularly what is going on, the people are reading, listening and seeing it everyday, but the politicians refuse to change and blame the media of mirage and sensationalism. We will not relent as the people voted them in power not to ask for $4,000 salary, but to improve their daily lives.
Austin Thomas In China