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Igniting agricultural growth and transformation in Africa

Source: Fri, 20 Jun 2014 23:05 GMT
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A South Sudanese woman, displaced by the fighting in Malakal, gathers grains to eat after they were left behind by an offloading truck on May 29, 2014. REUTERS/Andreea Campeanu
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At the African Union (AU) summit in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003, African Heads of State and Government made a resolute and resounding commitment to tackle food insecurity and to accelerate growth of the continent’s food, agriculture and rural sectors.

Through the landmark Maputo Declaration, they adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as their continent-wide blueprint for agriculture, pledging to allocate at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture, adopt sound agricultural development policies and achieve at least 6 per cent growth in agricultural production per year.

Since then, we have seen how countries that have followed through on the Maputo Declaration and successfully implemented CAADP compacts have seen greater progress in the development of their agriculture sector, and in the improvement of their food security. To date, 40 countries have signed CAADP Compacts and 28 countries have already developed National Agriculture Investment Plans to operationalize the Compacts, in a process that has brought together governments, civil society, private sector, small–scale producers and family farmers, women and youth.

The AU African year of Agriculture and Food Security together with the UN International Year of Family Farming makes 2014 a good year to take stock of the CAADP framework and galvanize efforts aimed at increasing agricultural growth and transformation across the continent. We need to seize this opportunity to focus our attention, our policies and our advocacy actions in promoting agriculture as well as increasing social protection and support for the communities, which, despite general paucity of resources, contribute so much to food security in the continent.

At the AU summit on 20-27 June 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and dedicated to Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, African leaders will be presented with the historic opportunity to take bold decisions and make new policy commitments as they commendably did 11 years ago, in Maputo.

Africa is witnessing a period of unprecedented economic growth and the region can be proud to have seven out of the ten fast growing economies in the world; paradoxically, it is also the only continent in the world where the total number of hungry people has gone up since 1990. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with one in four people estimated to be hungry.

The challenge now is to match the vision of a hunger free Africa with this sterling economic growth, and translate it into reality by tackling the multiple causes of hunger and undernutrition through partnerships and innovative financial solutions.

Recent discoveries of oil, gas and other new mineral deposits by a number of African countries provide a viable and diversified source of financing for Africa’s development. If well managed and properly channelled, some of the revenues from these resources can be invested in the agricultural sector through innovative mechanisms helping fulfil the promise of agriculture as the motor for African development.

Moreover, the continent is experiencing an unprecedented effort to support regional integration and solidarity that we salute. In this regard, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund for Food Security is a unique initiative for mobilizing resources from Africa for Africa with potential to help wipe out extreme hunger and build resilience of vulnerable people. The Fund aims to strengthen food security across the continent by assisting countries to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, eliminate rural poverty, tackle climate change issues and manage natural resources across the continent in a sustainable manner.

This and many other African-led initiatives being implemented across the continent need to be shared, adapted, up-scaled and replicated across the continent. Achieving food security in Africa is a momentous challenge too great for any one entity to overcome alone. It must involve civil society, private sector, international agencies, and the governments of developing and developed countries. Above all, the people themselves need to be empowered to manage their own development.

As we move towards 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, 20 countries in Africa have reached before target the first Millennium Development Goal hunger target of halving the proportion of undernourishment or have kept undernourishment levels below 5 percent since 1990.

The focus has now clearly shifted from reducing hunger to eradicating it altogether.  Already this progressive shift has been demonstrated by the high-level meeting held in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, in July 2013 through an initiative led by the African Union Commission, FAO, and the Lula Institute. Delegates at the meeting agreed on a roadmap to end hunger by 2025 through better policies, increased resource allocation to fight hunger and renewed partnership with a wide range of state and non-state actors.

At the upcoming African Union Summit, African leaders are set to formally adopt this 2025 zero hunger goal. Food security for all is the stepping stone to make African economic growth inclusive and share the prosperity the region is facing. Investing in agriculture and in the youth can help ‘ignite the spark’ to make this happen.

 

--José Graziano da Silva is the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

 

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