FAO Regional Office for Africa

Parliamentarians call for more action on food security and nutrition

FAO puts in practice a multisectoral approach to achieve zero hunger

Photo: @FAO

29 March 2019, Midrand — Legislative and policy measures on a variety of salient areas are critical to move closer to ensuring that everyone can feed oneself with dignity and achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 in Africa.

This statement came out from the Pan-African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (PAPA-FSN) training facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The event brought experts from FAO to promote a multisectoral approach to enhance the work of parliamentarians towards fostering an enabling environment to eliminate hunger. The training took place at the onset of the March Sittings of the Permanent Committees of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and over 30 members of the PAPA-FSN actively participated.

The parliamentarians discussed measures from nutrition and sustainable food systems for healthy diets to the crosscutting nature of gender and social policies, and from access to and ownership of productive resources to the role of responsible investments in food systems. The proceedings disclosed that one area cannot be addressed individually without being mindful of the interrelated role and impact of the other in the efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.

During the opening session at the PAP, Francesco Pierri, FAO Representative in South Africa stressed that, “If we are to meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieve Zero Hunger by 2030, cooperation among different actors is mandatory.” Mindful of the wealth of expertise found across its offices and departments, FAO used the two-day training to promote a multisectoral approach to strengthen the capacities of parliamentarians to address those challenges.

Acting as one FAO

As the right to feed oneself in dignity, parliamentarians deconstructed certain misconceptions about the right to adequate food while discussing some of its main components for States through concrete measures from the Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food. They further touched on how the realization is intrinsically linked to other human rights, such as health, social security, water and decent employment. Given the nature of their mandate, the group also discussed the key elements to take into account when legislating to achieve Zero Hunger covering specific areas such as constitutions, framework laws, sectoral laws, etc.

Mphumuzi Sukati of FAO emphasized the universal concern brought about by the worsening situation of food security and nutrition across the continent with high levels of stunting, wasting and obesity among others. The multiple and systematic causes are influenced by social, economic, cultural and political environments. The parliamentarians called for the adoption of nutrition-sensitive food systems as well as the urgency to enhance national school feeding programs as a key instrument to guarantee the right to adequate food of children more specifically.

Given the fundamental role that women play in food and nutrition security as well as their contribution to the realization of the right to adequate food of all, gender and social policies was at the centre of discussions throughout the training. With discrimination impeding the enjoyment of certain rights and hampering opportunities for women, parliamentarians advocated for concrete measures towards empowerment and equality, with respect to not only women but also youth and persons with disabilities.

With already existing regional and global guiding documents on access to and ownership of productive resources such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, participants encouraged the need to make proactive use of them. With the inadequacy of many current laws on land tenure discussed by parliamentarians, particularly the inability to properly recognize and protect social tenure rights, and considering the platform that parliamentarians have, the value and pertinence of such guidance documents can improve the situation.

Participants further debated the necessity to ensure that legal and policy frameworks are conducive to responsible investments that positively contribute to Zero Hunger, with the importance of the Principles for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems underlined during discussions.

An element that was reiterated abundantly throughout the training was the necessity to ensure adequate financial, human and institutional resources to effectively implement laws and policies to achieve the status of Zero Hunger.

Parliamentarians also shared their views on the different options for the process of elaboration and adoption of a regional model law on food security and nutrition that will take place in the coming months.

 FAO and its work with parliamentarians

 Parliamentarians have a pivotal role to play in making sure that people are able to feed themselves in dignity given their legislative, budgetary and oversight roles, combined with their critical influence within their constituencies. Chief amongst their critical role is to advocate for and support the adoption and implementation of framework laws on food security and nutrition that confer the required stability to progressively advance towards the realization of the right to adequate food. Additionally, evidence has shown that the improvement in food and nutrition security is principally due to policies, programs and frameworks anchored in legislation.

In recent years, FAO has thus consolidated its partnership with parliamentarians across the globe to join forces in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The strong involvement of parliamentarians, especially notable through parliamentary alliances for food security and nutrition at different levels – national, sub regional and regional was evident during the first Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition in Madrid in October 2018. As stated in its Final Declaration, the strong commitment of parliamentarians from all over the world combined with the technical support of FAO reinforce one another and positively contribute to meeting some of the key challenges of this century.     

About the joint Technical Cooperation Project between PAP and FAO   

In light of key challenges pertaining to hunger and malnutrition across Africa, the joint PAP-FAO Technical Cooperation Project “TCP/RAF/3612 - Strengthening capacities of Parliamentarians in Africa for an enabling environment for Food Security and Nutrition including the right to adequate food” was established primarily to position the issue of food security and nutrition at the highest level of the political and legislative agendas in order to achieve the developmental objectives of Africa.

Through its work at the regional level and in a number of African countries, the TCP strives to strengthen the capacity of PAPA-FSN to advocate for and support the implementation of framework laws on food security and nutrition while promoting its integration into national legal frameworks. In this context, the two-day training offered a prime opportunity to strengthen and consolidate the capacities of members of the PAPA-FSN to dynamically act in a multisectoral way towards establishing an enabling environment to achieve food security, optimal nutrition and the realization of the right to adequate food.

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