2016 CU-ICADI: Experts Suggest Ways to Food Security, Healthy Living, Gender Equality
Solutions to the myriad of challenges plaguing development in African nations were not in short supply at the 2016 Covenant University’s International Conference on African Development Issues; with some speakers proffering solutions to the problems of food security, healthy living and gender inequality.
Presentations on the aforementioned issues were sub-themed at the ICADI event, which had as its main theme, ‘Driving Inclusive and Sustainable Development in Africa: Models, Methods and Policies.’
While making his presentation on ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security,’ Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, Coordinator, GEF, National Project on Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security, defined the concept of food security as involving food availability, food access, utilization and stability. He described food security as the provision of safe, nutritious, and quantitatively and qualitatively adequate food, as well as access to it, by all people.
According to Oladipo, “Food exists 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 an active and healthy life.”
He stated that due to lack of food security in Africa, there is a pervasive and corrosive problem and double-burden of malnutrition. As a result, the World Health Assembly in 2012 set six global nutrition targets for 2025: to reduce by 40 per cent the number of children under 5 who are stunted; to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in the rate of anemia in women of reproductive age; to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in the rate of infants born low birth weight; to ensure that there is no increase in the rate of children who are overweight; to increase to at least 50 per cent, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months; and to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5 per cent.
Speaking on the Nigerian situation, Oladipo said that Nigeria was ranked 91st out of 116 on the 2015 Global Hunger Index, 91st out of 108 on the 2015 Global Food Security Index. And currently, about 12.9 million Nigerians (or 7% of the projected population 182 million in 2015/16) are undernourished (FAO, 2015).
He pointed out that the range in agro-ecological conditions across the country makes Nigeria well suited for diversified food production; but that despite all these obvious abundant human and natural resources, the country is still unable to feed its’ citizens. Food insecurity in Nigeria, he said, rose from about 18% in 1986 to about 41% in 2004, with some case studies suggesting that as many as 70 percent of Nigerians are food insecure in recent times.
He listed out the root causes of food insecurity in Africa to include, poverty; increasing demand; security through trade – ability to earn sufficient foreign exchange from other exports; Food policies of the developed countries; Market-based food insecurity - even when food is available, from local production or imports, people may not have physical and economic access to the food.
Others, he said, are food absorption and utilization - even when food is available in the household, some family members may not be able to take advantage of it – hampered by inadequate water supplies and poor standards of sanitation which reduce the quality of their food or make it hazardous; the impact of high oil prices - natural gas is the principal input for fertilizers and finally, decelerating productivity – land degradation and climatic shocks.
In her presentation, on ‘Gender Parity and Sustainable Development in Africa,’ Deaconess Doyinsola Ogunbiyi, the President/CEO, Reach Out Integrated, described gender parity as a concept which is first clarified by differentiating between sex and gender. “SEX, she said, “is the connotation of male and female while GENDER is basically the social role between male and female.”
“We will recall the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women CEDAW, which was ratified by the government in 1985. The civil society organizations made efforts to domesticate CEDAW; while this was on going, the African Union adopted the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2003,” she stated.
Ogunbiyi also mentioned that the Federal Executive Council in 2006 approved the National Gender Policy (NGP); the instrument and the policy have now been woven into the Gender & Equal Opportunities Bill; while stating that the Maputo Protocol was home grown on the continent of Africa and is seen as the most progressive document on Women Rights.
Moreover, Ogunbiyi said, “Women account for half of the global labour supply and about 70% of global consumption demand. Greater gender equality in educational employment opportunities will foster faster, more inclusive growth not only because women are half of the world’s population but also because they are more likely than men to invest in the human capital of their families.”
In order to correctly fight gender inequality, she said, “There is need to show that we deal with people as people not women differently from men. There is need to see all human beings deserving dignity and respect. There is need to see that women are not intellectually inferior to men. There is need to see one another in partnership, valuing each other’s opinion and perspectives on life. God made it that way. All we need is restoration.
“I am saying that things are not set up to allow women have the same starting, that is why we are here, advocating Gender Parity: Equal Opportunities; Equal access to resources; Equal enjoyment of socially valued goods and rewards; Fairness in the way women and men are treated. Where the needs of women are taken into consideration and compensation is made for women’s historical and social disadvantages. Gender equity thus serves to level the playing field and empower women. We can then say equity is essential to achieve true equality. More gender balanced leadership and prosperity,” she opined.
Furthermore, Ogunbiyi said that Gender Equality must be embraced and sustained if we are to evolve culture and ourselves. “It’s about Cultural Revolution. The AU is focusing on issues of human rights with attention on the rights of women. AU is showing its commitment and dedication by supporting government bodies with proper education, justice and knowledge. For many decades African women had reason to expect change following global conferences that set ambitious targets to transform the lives of women across the world.
“African women are taking stock of progress and asking to what extent promised reforms have been implemented. They are also examining why progress has been limited in many countries and are seeking ways to overcome the obstacles. African Union Commission today is already implementing the AU Gender Parity Policy of 50/50. It has the highest number of women in peacekeeping forces and the highest number of women in political decision making bodies globally. It is gratifying to note that, currently 37 countries in the world, have at least 30% of women representation in the parliament; sixteen of those countries are in Africa,” she posited.
In the last presentation given by Dr. O. Kukoyi, MD/CEO, Ace Medicare, on ‘Health and Environmental Issues for Sustainable Development in Africa,’ he described sustainable development with a landmark definition given by The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987, as "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
He further described Sustainable Development as, “maintaining a delicate balance between the human need to improve lifestyles and feeling of well-being on one hand, and preserving natural resources and ecosystems, on which we and future generations depend.”
He noted the interconnectedness among the various dimensions of sustainable development, and that we all face sustainable development dilemmas in our individual, family and societal platforms in our everyday lives. For instance, clean air to breathe vs Car for transportation as a need in conflict of ‘Air pollution’ by the car emission.
Quoting Kofi Annan’s speech in 2002, Kukoyi posited, “The world cannot continue to act, produce and consume unsustainably; this is the time to act especially on water, energy, human health, agriculture and biodiversity (WEHAB),” if Sustainable Development is to be achieved.” Unsustainable development, he said, has been starkly compared to cancer, because it eats away at the earth’s ecosystem services which are its life-support system.
He mentioned the environmental challenges of Sub-Saharan Africa to include high population pressure and land degradation; the impact of climate change - deforestation and desertification, erosions and energy needs, (hugely unmet in most Sub-Saharan African countries). Others are: rapid urbanization - uncoordinated and haphazard; underdeveloped transportation: a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Kukoyi also pointed out the very poor health indices of Sub-Saharan Africa, like high infant mortality rates, high maternal mortality rates and high neonatal mortality rates; low life expectancy, hunger, and malnourishment. He mentioned the dangerous tendency to look at the statistics as mere figures, rather than humans with feelings, faces and aspirations.
High and out-of-pocket expenditure on health as percentage of total expenditure on health: Cameroon (66%) Nigeria (72%), Sudan (76%); Brain drain: the system cannot support the levels of expertise and (sub) specialisation of the professionals. Not only that, he mentioned the low general government expenditure on health as a percentage of general government expenditure - Nigeria 7%, Kenya 6%, Chad 3%. Following that is low penetration of universal health coverage in many African countries (In Nigeria, less than 10%), and very poor infrastructure; unaffordable medical equipment, with little maintenance support, resulting in long down-time.
In order to make progress, Kukoyi said there is urgent need to think globally and act locally. He cited the need for a better understanding of the linkages among the trends and the associated changes in economic, social and environmental conditions. He emphasised the necessity to implement bi (multi) lateral environmental and health agreements, enforce institutional policies and regulations, promote environmental management.
He stated that the adoption of renewable energy which produces little or even no pollution e.g. solar and wind energy is crucial as well as long-term and short-term implementation of use of transportation modes that are eco-friendly, emitting little green-house gases. Amongst other strategies, he mentioned the importance of private sector encouragement and active participation. He stated that currently, in Nigeria, the private sector holds the key to expected improvement in healthcare delivery (over 60%).
“There is need to give financial support and single-digit interest loans to the health industry and for the encouragement of the health professionals in Diaspora to contribute to continental development,” he posited.
Kukoyi encouraged citizens to think about now, and the future; stating that Individual choices and decisions on our needs have effect on the environment and hence on future sustainability. Policy choices and actions, he said, can transform the Continent into a healthy, educated, empowered labor force that can contribute to real and sustained economic growth.