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ISSN: 2637-4676

Current Investigations in Agriculture and Current Research

Mini Review(ISSN: 2637-4676)

A Note on Assessing Hunger in African Countries Volume 7 - Issue 1

Lincoln J Fry*

  • Athens Institute for Education and Research, (ATINER) Athens Greece, Greece

Received: June 14, 2019;   Published: June 19, 2019

Corresponding author: Lincoln J Fry, Athens Institute for Education and Research, (ATINER) Athens Greece. General Patton Terrace Lucie, Florida

DOI: 10.32474/CIACR.2019.07.000252

Abstract PDF


This note is a continuation of an earlier series of papers which addressed hunger in Africa...These studies were all conducted at the country level and based on data collected by the Afro barometer Project’s 6th Round Survey conducted in 36 of Africa’s 54 Countries. The purpose of this note is different from the earlier papers in that its purpose is to demonstrate that Afro barometer’s existing surveys provide a means to assess the scope of hunger in African countries. What is important is this paper does address the existing literature’s lament that what is lacking to further hunger research in Africa is the lack of National Probability Samples. It is noted here that all Afro barometer country level surveys are National Probability Samples.

This paper compares current Afro barometer findings regarding hunger in African countries with the lists of what are considered the World’s and Africa’s hungriest countries There is some overlap in these comparisons, and some of those identified as Africa’s hungriest countries are included in the Afro barometer file; others did not appear on the list of the hungriest African countries. The world hungriest ranking points to the fact that Africa should be the focus of hunger research; 9 of the 10 countries on the top 10 list are African countries. The country Afro barometer data identifies as Africa’s hungriest country, Malawi, does not appear on the African or World’s hungriest countries lists .The paper points to the need to further assess hunger as identified in the first five surveys and in the soon to be released Afro barometer Round 7 file.


Among the various meanings of hunger, one refers to the want or scarcity of food in a country, and it is in that sense that this note addresses hunger. This paper presents findings from an ongoing research project as well as the data included in a merged file which contains the country level surveys of 36 African countries. The purpose is to demonstrate that existing survey research provides a means to assess the scope of hunger in these African countries. Because this note reports on a study that utilizes a self-report measure to assess hunger, the results may be seen to reflect a country’s total hunger level. That is because persons included in each country’s sample included respondents who might have been enumerated in formal hunger measures as well as unreported persons that reflect what is known as hidden hunger in their respective countries.


There are formal measures which include those who demonstrate clear cut hunger; in the latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization Report [1], the estimate was that 92 million people were hungry world-wide, and that 239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry or undernourished. This made Africa the continent with the second larges number hungry/ undernourished people, following Asia with 578 million. Due to th difference in population sizes, Sub-Saharan Africa actually had the largest proportion of hungry/undernourished people, estimated 30 percent of the population compared to 6 percent in Asia and the Pacific. What is known as hidden hunger is a major concern there are an estimated two billion persons that are affected by a chronic deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals. Among this population the signs of malnutrition and hunger are less visible, but it has negative and long-term consequences, often for long term health, productivity and cognitive development. Mµthayya et al. Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa: As Clover (2004) has suggested, despite the fact that the right to food is one of the most consistently acclaimed assertions in international human rights law, no other human right has been so frequently and spectacularly violated. Her discussion of food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa leads to the conclusion that hunger is a multi-faceted issue in Africa, and that just growing more food will not eradicate the problem. Agriculture is important and Clover points out that Africa has gone from being a key agricultural commodity exporter into being a net importer; the African continent now receives the most food aid. Perhaps the most important point Clover made was to suggest hunger will not be eradicated by just throwing money at the problem.

Measuring hunger: As Godecke et. al. [2]. have indicated, measuring hunger remains problematic. This does not mean that hunger has been ignored. There has been an effort in the research community to develop specific measures, like for hidden hunger to create, indices .and maps Muthayya et al. Both Godecke et al and Muthayya et al. point to the lack of national probability samples as the primary roadblock. These indices and mapping efforts have been productive and are useful here because they highlight the role of several important factors that are addressed on this paper. One is the fact that African farmers may be hungrier than the rest of the population, and also that gender may be a factor, with women hungrier than men. The objective of this note is to identify policy related factors that might help alleviate hunger problems at the countr level. The Data: This research’s Data Source is the Afrobarometer project, which started with 12 countries in Round l and by 2014 when Round 6 was completed included 36 African countries. The project uses a standardized questionnaire with new questions or country specific questions added by round. The individual country is the unit of analysis and sampling goal is to create national probability samples which represent cross sections of adult citizens, 18 years and older for each country. Sampling sizes are set at either 1,200 or 2,400 respondents, depending upon the country’s population size. The sampling procedures used in all of the Afrobarometer surveys are explained in detail in Bratton, Mattes and Gyimah-Boadi [3].

Measures: The study’s questionnaire included what is called The Lived Poverty Index used in the Afrobarometer studies which was adopted from Mattes. One of the five questions in the Index asked, “over the past year, how often, if ever, have you or anyone in your family gone without enough food to eat”. Fixed responses to this question were: never, just once or twice, several times, many times, always. These responses were coded as follows: Never= 1, just once or twice = 2 and many times and always = 3. This is the only measure included in the Afrobarometer survey that will be used in this note. Table I shows the countries that have been identified as the world’s hungriest nations, lists Africa’s hungriest countries and then shows the percentages of persons in African countries who reported being hungry many times or always. These numbers were derived through a breakdown of Round 6 of Afrobarometer survey by country and earlier papers (redacted) While it is true that the Afrobarometer file only contains 36 countries of Africa’s 54 countries, the fact remains that some of those identified as Africa’s hungriest countries are included in the Afrobarometer file and did not appear on the list of what are supposedly the hungriest countries in Africa [4-6].

Discussion and Conclusion

Table 1 does make it clear that Africa is the major source of the world’s hunger. The first 9 countries on the world’s hungriest list are all African countries, with a single Asian country completing the top 10. The numbers assigned to each country are taken from the Global Hunger Index (2018), which is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional and country levels. Perhaps what is most surprising is the lack of correspondence between the Countries based on the GHI and the Afrobarometer samples. While it is true that the Afrobarometer file only contains 36 countries of Africa’s 54 countries, the fact remains that some of those identified as Africa’s hungriest countries are included in the Afrobarometer file and did not appear on the list of what are supposed to be the hungriest African countries. This discrepancy will provide the basis for the next paper in this series, which will look at all of the Afrobarometer surveys, including soon to be released Round 7. The quest will remain the same, to identify the answer to the question, what are Africa’s hungriest countries?

Table 1: Countries Identified as Africa’ s and the World’s Hungriest Countries.



  1. (2015) UN Food and Agriculture Organization Report. The State of Food and Agriculture.
  2. Godecke T, Stein A, Qaim M (2018) The Global Burden of Chronic and Hidden hunger: Trends and Determinants. Global Food Security 17: 21-29.
  3. Bratton M, Mattes R, Gyimah-Boadi E (2005) Public opinion, democracy, and market reform in Africa. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Global Hunger Index (2018).
  5. Clover J (2003) Food security in sub-Saharan Africa: African security review Facts: Top 10 Hungriest African Countries 12(1): 5-15.
  6. The World’s Ten Hungriest Countries (2019).