The real causes of Hunger in Africa: The government and the policy


Policies constructed are often in line with corrupt decisions, lacking integrity. Limited agricultural budget, in favour of other non-agricultural sectors, as well as the failure to establish a perfect transport system, into remote small agricultural centres and a proper agricultural market system which affects the farming as a business. These are a lot when pointing the government flaws leading to the failure of the African agricultural sector. This study is based on two nations, South Africa and Zimbabwe the government has a lot of blame to take. Strategically, this article will try to contrast between the South African agrarian policy to the Zimbabwean, mainly because these two nations were faced with the same problem (Whites controlled the land) and responded by addressing the problem in two different ways, to each other and as well try to disapprove, to some extent, the weak governance policies as the only causal of hunger in Africa.

To acknowledge, during the colonial liberation struggles, Zimbabwean black population fought with a mere motive; to acquire land and thus slogans like mwana wevhu (son of the soil) were used on political rallies and some gatherings held during the liberation struggle. So, the post-colonial policy of a willing buyer and the willing seller did a little to offer back the land to the blacks from the whites. But by then Zimbabwe was recognized as the bread basket of Africa. Regionally, it was granted a post by SADC to provide this political bloc with, as well as to specialize on, agricultural necessities and products.

The powerful Grain Marketing Board, at home, became the buyer of cereals to the very lively and productive large scale farming business. Along the way, the GMB, used hereafter, became a powerful motivator for the small scale farmers. The rural population, in some areas, largely reported a perfectly stable agricultural business, but the only problem was that there was a limited and poor land for rural black farmers. Therefore, farming in the rural areas earned farmers enough to cater for every expense but not for luxury. From this time, the rural folk incessantly thought of making farming a soundly business— a motive which the people shared with the government.

Still, on this, the situation before 1998 was largely stable with a trend signifying a food surplus, if not overstated. However, some marginalized communities, either by remoteness or poverty, failed to buy cheap grain from the GMB.

Previously, the Colonial masters had pushed the black minority into reserves__ poor land they did not want themselves because it was agriculturally unproductive. In response to this historical situation, from the 1880s up to the late 1990s ruling government managed to resettle 55 000 out of 165 000 families dispersed by colonialists into reserves. The British government is alleged to have helped the Zimbabwean government with loans to buy back the land from whites.

A lot of people felt that there was a need to speed up the process, when, from 1992, a three-year drought threatened the rural population. Faced with the majority pressure, the ruling government, which was dominated by a black majority issued a constitutional feature in the 1992 and 1997 constitution indicating a projected change, in the future, from willing buyer-willing seller policies to a more powerful and fast track land reform project. Thus, in 2000 the horrific land reform programme commenced and forcefully commercial farms were distributed, as alleged, to only a few blacks who were affiliated to the ruling party ZANU PF. Again, this continued the land disparities up to now and the majority of the population is still living in the former ‘reserves’ and hunger, exacerbated by a life-threatening climate-changing situation, is ravaging the rural population.

The move to a fast track land reform programme declined the agricultural efficiency and from 2002 hunger and poverty became so prominent in Zimbabwe. This was largely because of a failure to financially empower the newly resettled farmers for inputs, capital, and machinery. Neither the Zimbabwean agribank nor the minister of agriculture Kumbirai Kangai was willing to let loose some finances and loans to the newly arising black farmers. To make matters worse, the British and other donation funds were no longer available for this project because of the roughshod which the white minority had faced during the fast-track land reform. Later, the Western powers imposed sanctions on the country and agriculture began to lose its international markets outside Africa.

More on this, when the fast track land reform was put into the system the government never considered experience and qualifications as a necessary prerequisite for one to occupy a large commercial farm. Unlike small-scale farming, large scale farming requires knowledge and skills backed up by extensive research. The Zimbabwean government simply considered war veterans and the political mass as the suitable candidates for the newly available farms. Solomon Mujuru one of the ruling party officials, acquired, over the years, 25 farms illegally. This clearly indicates how weak governance is leading to hunger in Africa.

Besides, the enforcement of ESAP in Zimbabwe geared up by loans from the IMF was an aiding factor, worsening the economic situation, and on its failure, it left a debt situation. It brought about, under its scope, the liberalisation of domestic markets and encouraging exports, through government-sponsored incentives, which were considered as the main path to the growth of Zimbabwean agriculture. This project offered no concrete resources for smallholder agriculture, export projects, as previously ascertained, as happened in Kenya. Commenting on the situation, former minister of agriculture Mr David Coltat said, “.. Foreign loans are incurred and thereafter squandered through mismanagement, corruption, and misdirection, the result will leave a nation at the same state prior to the implementation of the project”. There is no way we can talk about the failure of African economies without including corruption.

The same situation which was confronted by Zimbabwe before fast track land reform programme was almost the same in South Africa. Land disparities arising from the colonial and apartheid epoch are still affecting the South African rural black population. The Land Act of the 1930s deprived South Africans much of their productive land. During the 1960s the apartheid system became another animal. The majority of the blacks were deprived of both land and income.  Who knows? Maybe, as some scholars suggest, the apartheid economy was well geared to feed the whole population, but the racist government dominating the political circles was unwilling to share anything with the black population.i The evolvement of South Africa into being the workshop of Africa pushed a lot of migrant labourers into the region, (still the case today)— a forceful push to the nation to mechanise agriculture. Mechanisation and irrigation were installed for the white farmers only. Women, back at home, in response to the migrant-labour-situation substituted the roles which were previously played by their husbands in farming. The black rural communities suffered both labour drain and brain drain.

During the apartheid, more than 38% of the blacks resided in agriculturally unproductive land while some lived in the industrial regions like Kimberly. The post-apartheid government, merely as Zimbabwe, simply followed the willing buyer and willing seller policy and never the violent fast track land reform which was adopted by Zimbabwe in the later date. During the apartheid the white minority government did a little, if not none, to address the rural situation, especially on the side of blacks. A little funding was only open for white farmers, whilst the government participated in Cold war politics and expensive military and missile projects.

Again, in the case of South Africa, in 2009 $130 000 000 was banked on missile projects which were under the hands of Denel Dynamics and Brazil. Recently South Africans were demanding for the step-down of president Zuma after the patron signed a billion dollar nuclear energy deal with Russian firms, yet a ministry of energy research is showing that there is no need to increase the electric energy capacity until 2037.ii  In contrast, given an incessant money shortage crisis, Zimbabwe used up $376 677 000 dollars on its military division in 2015 and in 2002 the country’s military expenditure grabbed 10% of the gross domestic production.iii Both countries are specialising on the least important issues, leaving agriculture isolated— South Africa, however, has a well geared up economy. Like any other projects, agriculture needs a proper funding and the weaknesses of these two countries on the financial side are a core reason for their failures to handle the growing populations.

However, like most of the African nations South African and Zimbabwean agriculture relies mostly on rainfall. The 1992 to 1995 droughts accounted for hunger in Zimbabwe following a massive inflation and retrenchment. With the upcoming climatic problems, both countries in this discussion are witnessing a situation which is out of the government control. However, this is often accompanied by the unwillingness to improvise agriculture anchoring projects like irrigation schemes. Most of the Southern Zimbabwean and the Northern South African parts, despite the lack of rainfall, have rich and fertile soils, but both governments are failing to trigger a successful green revolution. Sometimes finances of the projects are put into force, but both governments are failing to account for the implementation of these projects and corruption follows by.

Again, the Zimbabwean government is depriving some potential agricultural regions, through the ‘marginalisation tradition’. Transport networks tend to be dense in regions near the major town centres leaving remote areas isolates. With a poor transport system, these marginalised hinterlands are usually deprived of not only agricultural markets but of modern agricultural inputs. South Africa, over the time, has managed to address the situation far better than Zimbabwe. From the mineral revolution, the South African road network emerged to be the best in Africa. The government sets out ‘Agri-hubs’, a government initiative meant to assist farmers, through an easier access to all agriculture related services.iv |v For the case of Zimbabwe, the problem of remote areas like Binga district has never been attempted and this is leading to the persistence of a weak subsistence farming and incessant food crisis. The area appears to be shaded off the map, some people are still living in very old traditional ways. Is it easier then to modernise agriculture?

However, despite the government failures, an array of factors, including wars and conflicts, weather and climate, bad agriculture practices and poverty are the other causes of hunger in both countries under discussion. In Zimbabwe, from 1882, the conflict between the ZANU-PF bloc and the defenceless Ndebele (ZAPU led) people prohibited, directly, the development of Matebeleland agriculture, which was known for its finest beef output and food processing in the country. Ndebele villagers were publicly executed, and being deprived of drought reliefs most of the villagers were starved to death, such a situation was not salutary to a region experiencing successive drought  Up to 1985 there was a secret political operation, which followed under the command of the ruling party ZANU-PF to win the upcoming 1985 elections threatened the Ndebele people, and many in fear never embarked on agriculture for the following two years.vii

In South Africa, the increase in population coverage over the land is leading to a massive deforestation and land degradation. Recent research evidence, shows that most of the sloping areas are encountering such a defect, and these include the areas around eastern escarpment region and incorporating the former Ciskei, Transkei, and KwaZulu, together with the communally farmed areas mainly associated with the Limpopo Province and the North-West Province.viii An incessant land degradation problem is a threat to South African agriculture as some land is now out of agricultural use, awaiting an expensive land reclamation process. In response to climate change and land degradation, however, the South African government has encouraged the farming of genetically modified seeds, which can do well in a short season whilst Zimbabwean government has objected such an undertaking for a longer time.

In conclusion, the essay has managed to weigh the reasons behind the failure of Africa to feed her populations basing on two cases which are South Africa and Zimbabwe. After weighing all of the factors leading to hunger in Africa, one can safely conclude that the hunger situation in Africa is largely because of a weak government policy formulation and its failure to battle out corruption. From a comparison stance, Zimbabwe is facing more challenges than South Africa. The changing climatic situation is a condition requiring relief, the government should respond. Maybe in future, some countries will be completely trapped under the Malthusian trap.

Sources and annotations

i The Color of Hunger: Race and Hunger in National and International Perspective”, In David Lyle Shield (ed.), Rawman and Littlefield, 1995, p.149.

ii” Paul Vinchatto and Michael Cohen, Zuma’s Nuclear Ambitions are Dealt a Blow by South African Court”, April 2017 bulletin Bloomberg Politics.

iiiZimbabwe Military expenditure”, index mundi.

iv Click here to understand more about agriculture hubs.

v  Maumbe Blessing M., “E-Agriculture and E-Government for Global policy Development: Implication and future direction”, Pretoria, IGI Global, 2009, p.37

vi Jeorg Bauer, “The Flight of the Phoenix: Investing in Zimbabwe’s Rise from the Ashes during the Global Debt Crisis”, epubli, 2013.

vii Ibid..

viii Michael E Meadows, Timm M Hoffman,“Land degradation and climate change in South Africa” , Access full article  here


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s