Researchers speak of fundamental policies to be put in place to fight famine in Ethiopia

Researchers who attended a three-day meeting organized by the UNECA said it was a critical time for the government to look into and return back to the fundamental points of guaranteeing food security, mainly by revising and reforming new market strategies and effective monitoring system of food stocks on time.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) had organized an Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Population, Agriculture and Environment. Researchers from Africa and major donor countries as well as professionals representing various research institutions had attended the meeting, which was concluded yesterday.

According to Dr. Eleni Z. Gebre-Medhin, Research Fellow, Markets and Structural Studies Division (MSSD) at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the fact that famine in Africa in general and in Ethiopia in particular is a staggering reality should lead concerned government officials and development partners to return back to the fundamentals and think once again whether the policy prescriptions given by donor organizations had been wrong or developing countries had been going to the wrong direction.

In an interview with Addis Tribune, Dr. Eleni stated that it was also useful to look into issues of whether famine could be attributed to issues from good governance to bad policy implementations, as this year's drought across Africa came after 20 years structural adjustment and market reform of investment had started in different aspects of guaranteeing food security in the current drought affected countries.

She said that the current situation in Ethiopia should be a reason for a pause to start to think what had been done so far. "The current situation occurred seven months after Ethiopia had reported a problem on what to do with surplus stocks of grain. If things seem to be going right, how could the situation had been completely reversed in the course of absence of one or two seasons of rains?" she questioned.

Areas seeking government's potential attention, according to Dr. Eleni, are reforming and balancing the demand and supply side of the prevailing weak grain market. "If there was a surplus and one still have pocket demand and if those pocket demands were not benefiting from the surplus, one can say that agriculture revolution did not translate into increased incomes for farmers or increased consumption for the hungry, so every body is losing."

Topics such as the state of food security, measuring and monitoring food security in Africa along with developing feasible indicators and concepts and methodology issues, were prime topics grasped panelists' attention who had attended the meeting.

Two professors from University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, suggested that points, among others, institutional location and management issues, building infrastructure, periodicity of analysis issues, and finding out appropriate indicators of early warning system as major ones for a sustained food security measuring and monitoring program. They have also prioritized revising and removing politicians from food security monitoring programs as an alternative to secure the sustained food security stock.

Dr. Eleni, however, argued that it was also important to have committed officials working around and getting agricultural productivity up and removing market distortions. She believes that government's withdrawal from various subsidy programs such as controlled fertilizer and/or input supply and weak coordination between the concerned stakeholders working in the area as well as the ever increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is claiming the lives of professionals working on food security programs, had also contributed to the problem.


Addis Tribune
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