Setting the Scene: The Sub-Saharan Africa Context | 9

          Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s fastest growing populations, estimated at 2.7% a year, compared to 2% and 2.2% a year in Asia and Latin America respectively (Haggblade et. al, 2004). At the same time the per capita food production index shows a decline from 1.0 in 1961 to 0.82 in 2002 while the index in Asia and Latin America increased from 1.0 in 1961 to 1.82 and 1.25 respectively (Haggblade et. al, 2004). The population is unevenly distributed with semi-arid areas not as densely populated as some of more fertile areas (Lelo and Makenzi, 2000). The country with the largest population is Nigeria with 136.5 million. It is followed by Ethiopia with 68.6 million and the Democratic Republic of Congo with 53.2 million.

In sub-Saharan Africa women play a central role in agricultural production (growing about 80% of staple food crops), yet most of their contribution goes unrecognized. They are also critical to household well-being, with the majority of rural and low-income urban women performing up to 50 hours per week of domestic tasks, including caring for children, and performing essential social functions within their communities. All of these responsibilities are borne by women and yet males are the primary household decision makers and in many countries boys are still the recipients of most educational opportunities (Manuh, 1998; Bruinsma, 2003; Harsch, 2004). In addition, women have been among those most affected in SSA by HIV/AIDS, structural adjustment programs and civil strife and conflict. The majority of refugees are women and children (Manuh, 1998).

The economies of SSA are diverse and shaped by international trade relations. Currently, SSA and the rest of African countries, Caribbean and Pacific countries are faced with critical negotiations with the European Union concerning the establishment of Economic Partnership Agreements.

Further diversity is exhibited in languages: SSA is the most diverse in the world with over two thousand different indigenous languages (Kim and Kim, 2003). Most farmers in the rural areas use these indigenous languages while extension agents rely more on exogenous ones such as English and French. This reliance limits the effectiveness of extension communication

1.2.3        Hunger, nutrition and human health
Progress has been made against hunger globally, but the slow growth of agricultural outputs and expanding population has led to setbacks in regions like SSA (IAC, 2004). Hunger tends to be concentrated among the landless or among farmers whose plots are too small to provide for their needs.

About 33% and 31% of people in sub-Saharan Africa were undernourished during 1990-92 and 2001-2003 respectively (FAO, 2007b) with 32% of children under five years of age characterized as underweight (FAO, 2002). The status of undernourishment is varied among SSA countries. For example, more than 60% of the undernourished population is in East Africa. More than half of the populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique are classified as undernourished, while Angola, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia show prevalence rates between 40 and 50% (FAO, 2002). However, the absolute number of undernourished people increased from 172 millions in 1990-92 to 209 million in 2001-2003


(FAO, 2007b). This means that the reduction in undernourishment has not kept pace with the population growth rate. The social and economic consequences of malnutrition are widely felt, not only in the health sector but also in education, industry, agriculture, transport, human resources and the economy in general.

In the last decade, 14 countries in SSA have managed to reduce hunger by 25%. These countries had better economies and investment in interlinked socioeconomic policy (UNECA, 2005). However, the majority of countries in SSA do not meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard of at least 20 physicians per 100,000 people (World Bank, 2006).

An estimated 24.5 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2005 and approximately 2.7 million new infections occurred during that year. HIV/AIDS is adversely affecting the population structure of some parts of sub- Saharan African countries as the vast majority of people living with HIV and AIDS in Africa are between the ages of 15 and 49 and more than 12 million children are now orphans because of AIDS (Deame, 2001). However, the number of adults (over age 15) living with HIV and AIDS varies greatly among SSA countries (AVERT, 2007). For example, in Senegal the prevalence is under 1% of the population, whereas in South Africa and Zambia around 17-19% of that age group is infected. Rates exceeding 20% are recorded in Botswana (24.1%), Lesotho (23.2%), Swaziland (33.4%) and Zimbabwe (20.1%). West Africa has been less affected by HIV, but the prevalence rates in some countries are increasing. Prevalence is estimated to exceed 5% in Cameroon (5.4%), Côte d’Ivoire (7.1%) and Gabon (7.9%).

The experience of Uganda shows that HIV prevalence can fall; by 2001 HIV prevalence was around 5%, down from around 15% in the early 1990s. This change is thought to be largely due to intensive HIV prevention campaigns. More recently, similar declines have been seen in Kenya, Zimbabwe and urban areas of Zambia and Burkina Faso (AVERT, 2007).

HIV and AIDS prevalence in SSA is having a heavy toll on the availability of productive labor. Appropriate agricultural technologies do not necessarily imply labor intensive technologies (UNECA, 2005) and should correspond to the available labor force of a given area. Another related problem, given the high food insecurity in SSA, is the improvement of nutrition for HIV-infected people to reduce their chances of developing AIDS.

Malaria also contributes to the health challenges in SSA. It is estimated that 90% of the people who die from malaria are in SSA (World Bank, 2006). HIV and AIDS, malaria and other health factors result in premature deaths that disrupt the transmission of agricultural knowledge from one generation to the next, and reduce the labor force.

1.2.4        Poverty, livelihoods and the economy
The rate of economic growth in SSA has improved in the last 10-15 years (McKinley, 2005), but hsas remained low and in last few decades has had the worst growth performance of any region in the world (Garner, 2006; World Bank, 2006). Poor performance has been attributed to low investment, inappropriate policies and institutions and geographical constraints.