Bold actions to revive Africa’s food systems

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022 09:20 | By

African leaders have committed themselves to urgently implement actions to transform the continent’s fragile agriculture and food systems amid the global food crisis and the impacts of climate change.

In a landmark resolution at Africa’s leading agriculture and food systems forum recently, the leaders pledged to fast-track progress and drive efforts to build food security and a sustainable, profitable, and productive agricultural ecosystem.

Over 6,000 delegates, including current and former Heads of State and Government, attended the 2022 AGRF Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, which emphasised on co-operation and capacity building.

There have been successive crises recently on the continent: Covid-19, climate change, high cost of food (40 per cent rise) and food insecurity affecting 147 million people on the continent ­— an increase of 20 million since the beginning of 2022.

The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) aims at building climate-resilient ecosystems and communities. Pledging to direct more resources to agriculture, the leaders said innovation in finance must be led and supported by governments and driven by entrepreneurs to reality.

Rwanda’s Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Gerardine Mukeshimana, said: “We cannot just continue talking and not implementing. We should have fewer words and more action. It is now time for Africa to find solutions to its problems. We must develop resilient systems that can withstand external shocks”.

The summit stressed on the need to boost Africa’s food production, reduce over-reliance on imports, and lessen public expenditure.

Former Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said bold actions to transform Africa’s agriculture and food systems need collaboration with development partners and the private sector.

He said the conflict in Ukraine has created a crisis of three ‘Fs’ — fuel, food, fertiliser, urging African leaders to implement, resource and galvanise the continent to transform its food systems.

Dessalegn urged the continent to expedite the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, as well as production, investment, information and food waste policies to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The forum’s highlight was the ‘Presidential Summit’, in which Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe), Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger) and  Vice-President Philip Mpango (Tanzania) had a brainstorming session.

Correct mistakes

Kagame said African countries should have a sense of urgency on “how we got to this point” and correct the mistakes made.

“Food is important to human life and must benefit from skills and technology. We should stop being challenged, running into shocks because a crisis has hit somewhere else. We should learn the lessons. Africa should not be struggling with food insecurity. We are capable of feeding ourselves and others,” he noted.

Mnangagwa echoed this view, saying Western sanctions had forced Zimbabwe to thrive even in the midst of the Ukraine crisis by building its food resilience.

“We used to grow three months’ supply of wheat. Today, we can grow 13 months’ worth of wheat.  This crisis does not affect us. We have also increased the acreage of maize and plan to build a dam in every province in 2-3 years so that we can have 360,000 hectares under irrigation. We will then be self-sufficient even during periods of drought.”

Mpango said Tanzania has adopted a policy intervention approach, adding that it was self-sufficient in food. But he lamented that productivity in agriculture is low due to little  technology and costly fertiliser.

The sector is also unattractive to the youth and depends on the vagaries of the weather. “Investment in fertiliser factories could offset supply chain issues, while investment in irrigation and removal of taxation barriers for smallholders could provided them with opportunities to become self-sufficient.”

President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi decried the “tragedy” that had made a continent with the greatest amount of fertile, farmable land to be at the mercy of other nations. “We, as African leaders, must take our place at the top table as leaders in food production,” he said.

The Kigali forum was a follow-up to the 2021 AGRF in Nairobi at which the ‘2021 Africa Agriculture Status Report’ was unveiled. The report addresses the challenges and opportunities in creation of sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.

The leaders agreed to plough more resources into agriculture, especially to smallholder farmers.

In February, African Union leaders launched a “year of nutrition” at the annual African Union Summit, amid worsening levels of hunger and malnutrition.

One in five people (282 million) is under-nourished, while over 100 million people in 36 African countries are suffering extreme levels of hunger, according to Oxfam, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Bank and food experts.

Leaders at the African Union Assembly adopted the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security 17 years ago in July 2003, endorsing ambitious decisions on agriculture. The most prominent one

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