By Adedapo Adesanya
Four multilateral organizations joined officials from the African Union in Rwanda’s capital Kigali for the signing of a deal to formalize their commitment to jointly working toward addressing food and nutrition security on the continent.
These organizations comprised of the World Bank, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the African Development Bank Group and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the signing ceremony took place at the African Food Security Leadership Dialogue (AFSLD).
The event focused on concrete ways to strengthen and accelerate their support to food security programs in Africa and help African agriculture adapt to climate change through increased partnerships and coordination
The signing formalized cooperation in the implementation of decisions on agriculture and food security under the framework of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agriculture Growth and Transformation adopted in 2014 by the African Union Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea under which countries committed to end hunger in Africa by 2025.
The deal committed the organizations to supporting urgent action to adapt Africa’s agriculture to climate change, eradicate hunger and malnutrition and promote resilient, efficient and inclusive food systems as well as create jobs in agricultural value chains for a rapidly growing young population.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s farming sector has grown faster than anywhere else in the world with a 4.6 percent agriculture GDP growth rate from 2000 to 2018. But about 20 percent of Africa’s population (256 million people) are facing severe food insecurity. The situation is getting worse because of the negative impacts of climate change and conflicts. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have become more frequent and prolonged, leading to diminished productive capacity of the land and loss of natural capital.
In addition to that, farmers face several significant climate risks, especially in rainfed agriculture and pastoral production systems. The net effect is that per-capita food production is declining given a rapidly growing population, making food less available and accessible to a significant portion of the population.
This indicated that the number of undernourished people in most sub-regions has been on the rise again since 2014 and if this trend continues the hard-won gains of previous years will be lost.
Under the agreement, the organizations committed to work within a food systems framework to adapt Africa’s agriculture to climate change and sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience and reduce food loss and waste while enhancing management of land, soil, water and biodiversity.
World Bank Vice President Hafez Ghanem signed on behalf of the global lender while Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director-general of the FAO, signed on behalf of the UN food agency.
“Supporting efforts in African agriculture and adapting it to climate change will require a comprehensive approach. This meeting made it very clear that we must to work together to increase access to technology for the farmers, especially women, to enable better financing, and to ensure that agriculture is part of the climate change solution. And we must do so urgently. We look forward to increasing the coordination and collaboration with our partners and believe that we can realize impacts that are much larger than what the individual organizations can achieve working separately,” said Hafez Ghanem, Vice-President of the World Bank, Africa Region
Speaking after the signing, the President of IFAD, Mr Gilbert Houngbo, said, “Increasing coordination is critical because action needs to be taken at many levels, from addressing gaps in major infrastructure to transferring knowledge, finance and innovative technologies at the community, farm and even family level. IFAD is committed to continuing to work with its partners to empower the rural poor and the most vulnerable, and to ensure that smallholder farmers and agripreneurs have the capital, the knowledge and the support they need to succeed-and drive greater food security and economic development at the same time.”
Also speaking at the event, Rwandan President, Mr Paul Kagame, mentioned the need for a continent that is truly prospering in ‘every sense of the term’, noting that agriculture is undoubtedly the foundation of Africa’s prosperity.
Noting that the continent is off track with the Malabo Declaration’s target of eradicating hunger by 2025, Mr Kagame warned that undernourishment could negatively impact today’s children throughout their lives and put the entire human development agenda in Africa at risk if the trend is left unchecked.
“Improving the enabling environment for agriculture is something we can fully control. Increased agricultural productivity is essential for eradicating hunger and undernourishment. But food security is not where we stop. We want a continent that is truly prospering, in every sense of the term. And agriculture is undoubtedly the foundation of Africa’s prosperity. That is the larger ambition we must challenge ourselves to achieve. We owe it to the generations that follow us,” Mr Kagame stated.
Acknowledging the urgency of the situation, the AFSLD partners agree to scale-up their collaboration, including joint planning and programming, co-financing and parallel-financing, and joint analytical and advisory activities in addressing African food security issues in the context of climate change.
They also agree to commit financial and technical support that is commensurate to the size of the food security challenge, to use their convening power to leverage financing for adaptation of Africa’s agriculture and food systems to climate change, and to conduct regular joint portfolio reviews to assess progress on the agreed technical, institutional, and policy actions.
It noted that the situation is getting worse in many parts of the continent because of the negative effects of climate change on agricultural productivity, natural resources degradation, rapid population growth, increasing fragility and insecurity and economic stagnation.
More than 250 delegates, including senior officials and leaders of key organizations supporting major food security programs in Africa attended the African Food Security Leadership Dialogue.
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