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FAO urges lawmakers and academia to reach new milestones in the fight against hunger

Mapping out the path for universities to shape policy making in Africa

FAO Representative in Kenya, Gabriel Rugalema meeting parliamentarians and academicians at RUFORUM. @FAO/Abebe Banjaw

29 October 2018, Nairobi - Highlighting the dire food security challenges Africa faces, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) urged parliamentarians and the academia to use their complementary mandates to fight hunger in a transformational way.

Gabriel Rugalema, FAO Representative in Kenya, made this call at the Sixth African Higher Education Week and Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Biennial Conference 2018, where FAO staged a side event under the theme, “Engaging parliamentarians and academia to enhance their transformative potential to achieve Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goal 2(SDG2)”.

Underscoring the reality that the battle against hunger and malnutrition in Africa still demands structural reforms, including specific policies and legislation, Rugalema called on parliamentarians and the academia to play a critical role in transforming the lives of the rural populations, whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on agriculture and the rural economy.

“The academia should play a critical role in arming the legislators with evidence and facts to enable them deliver the four functions of a parliament, namely, formulation of legislation, oversight of government actions, catalysing debates, and analysing and approving of expenditures to fulfil Africa’s dream to be a hunger-free continent by 2025,” he emphasised. Congruently, Rugalema implored parliamentarians to actively engage and support the academia, while generating the required knowledge and evidence.

The event, held on 24 October 2018, drew Member of Parliaments from Kenya, Uganda/ Pan African Parliamentarian Assembly (PAPA), East African Legislative Assembly, and a significant number of university professors and researchers from Cameron, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Students from the FAO-sponsored/RUFORUM Community Field Attachment Programme have also carefully followed the debate. 

It was instrumental to discuss the existing food and nutrition security issues in Africa and map out the paths through which research results can influence policy-making and resource allocations towards intensifying the fight against hunger. The meeting comes barely a week to the Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutritionwhich will advance political will to achieve SDG2 at the international level.

The debate, revolved around FAO’s proposal on “Building a Common Vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture – for the Pan African Parliament” and the role of parliamentarians and academia, have elicited a wide range of views that lead to a general consensus on the 20 interconnected action points for policymakers.

Honourable Kasamba Mathias, Member of Parliament of the East African Legislative Assembly and Chairperson of the Committee of Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources of Tanzania, said there is a clear indication that agriculture is the way out to end hunger and malnutrition in Africa.“Our role as lawmakers and academicians is to enquire our governments to comply with the Malabo commitments they agreed upon to increase the budget for agriculture to 10 percent, so that the sector can transform itself to a modern system, which can attract the youth as a viable way to create wealth and to prosper,” he noted.

He then called on an urgent action from lawmakers and academia to have a closer look at policies, institutional arrangements and resources to get back on track towards ending rural poverty and providing jobs and prospects for the youth.

Professor Agwu E. Agwu, from the University of Nigeria, on his part, said agriculture is fundamental to achieve many of the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2063. “To unlock this potential, universities and research organizations should generate and manage demand-driven data to support evidence-based policy-making, planning, implementation that help institutions to reduce poverty, environmental degradation, and tackle climate change effects that perpetuate hunger,” he stressed.

In 2017, FAO partnered with RUFORUM, a consortium of 85 African universities in Eastern, Central, Western & Southern Africa, to catalyse policy debates around the issues related to food and nutrition security and sustainable food and agriculture systems.

This year, FAO and RUFORUM organized the side event: “Engaging parliamentarians and academia to enhance their transformative potential to achieve Agenda 2063 and SDG2,” to fostering dialogue, interaction, trust and networking among policymakers and researchers to highlight the truly transformative potential of Members of Parliament and universities towards achieving SDGs and Agenda 2063.

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