Ghana and South Africa: Two stand-out success stories in reducing hunger

By | 8 May 2014

FAO lauds countries for reducing prevalence of undernourished people to less than five percent of their total populations

2 May 2014, Accra – As the only countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with under five percent of their populations undernourished, Ghana and South Africa provide two examples that major successes in fighting hunger can be achieved by African governments given strong political commitment, FAO said today.

Ghana has since 1990 slashed the prevalence of undernourishment from 44.4 percent of its population in 1990 to less than five percent, as of 2011.

For its part, South Africa has maintained the percent of its population experiencing undernourishment at less than five percent during that same period and has continued to bring down the absolute numbers of hunger over the past twenty years.

“These two countries deserve credit for the continued resources and attention they have focused on slashing hunger,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “More than that, Ghana and South Africa deserve credit for the example they set for other countries, and for their willingness to act as partners and collaborators in Africa-wide efforts to strengthen food security and nutrition security.”


Ghana – broadly shared economic growth

Starting in the 1990s, political stability and key market reforms ushered in period of sustained economic growth for Ghana.

The government has made a concerted effort to broadly share the benefits of this growth, especially with rural communities.

A series of policies and institutional reforms targeting agriculture, boosted by public investment, led to sustained increases in food production by Ghana’s smallholder farmers.

Extreme poverty declined from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 28.5 percent in 2006.

Per capita food production increased by 55 percent between 1990–92 and 2008–10.

Reforming the country’s cocoa sector played a crucial role in agricultural growth. Investments in research and development on roots and tubers and extension efforts were also successful in introducing innovative production methods, leading to yield increases and the development of new, more resilient varieties.

In 2007, Ghana launched its National Social Protection Strategy, an integrated social protection framework that addresses the needs of vulnerable groups that have not fully benefited from the country’s rapid economic growth. The strategy targets policies to the extreme poor and highly vulnerable, notably through its Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty initiative, a conditional cash transfer program.

“Ghana is a powerful example that major strides in reducing hunger are indeed possible, where there is the vision that economic growth must translate into improved standards of living, and when there is a commitment to making that happen, linking productive support and social protection” said Graziano da Silva.


South Africa – a commitment to rural livelihoods and food security

“South Africa shows how important political will to improving food security and nutrition is,” said Graziano da Silva. “South Africa’s very Constitution states that every citizen has the right to have access to sufficient food and water, and commits the state to supporting the progressive realization of the right to food,'” he noted.

In 1994, South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme identified food security as a priority policy objective.

The government refocused public spending on improving the food security conditions of historically disadvantaged people. That policy resulted in increased spending on various social programs, including school feeding schemes, land reform and farmer settlement production loans scheme for small farmers, infrastructure grants for smallholder farmers and a presidential tractor mechanization scheme.

The next decade, the government took steps to streamline and improve such programs, establishing in 2002 an Integrated National Food Security Strategy.

Today, South Africa’s development agenda continues to place food security and nutrition high on its list of priorities.

The country’s new national development plan, finalized in 2012, outlines a number of goals to be achieved by the year 2030, including: “Realize a food trade surplus, with one-third produced by small-scale farmers or households.”

And among the 12 official “government outcomes” which form the country’s strategic objectives is “Outcome 7: Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities with food security for all.”

A key program supporting these goals is the government’s Fetsa Tlala initiative.

Using a variety of approaches, the initiative is working to revitalize rural economics and boost food production by bringing unused land back into production, providing capacity-building and training for rural populations, improving opportunities for small- medium and micro- rural enterprises, promoting family gardens, and strengthening cooperatives and rural self-help groups, entre alia.



Liliane Kambirigi

Communication Officer

FAO Regional Office for Africa

Accra, Ghana



For further information on South Africa, please contact FAO South Africa: Tel: 012-354-8530.

Related links

FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAOstat country profile for Ghana:

FAOstat country profile for South Africa: