FAO Regional Office for Africa

Africa’s sustainable development hinges on agriculture

Photo: ©FAO

“The battle for sustainable development in Africa must be fought and won in the agriculture and rural sectors,” emphasized Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, at the virtual interactive dialogue “Sustainable Agriculture and Development in Africa: Lessons learned from COVID-19 for Building Back Better”, co-organized on 18 June 2020 by the Permanent Missions of Ghana and Italy to the United Nations, in collaboration with Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI).

Ambassador Martha Ama Pobee, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations, noted the importance of sustainable agriculture for African countries. “This sector is uniquely placed to impact positively on many of the Global Goals,” she said. 

Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, stressed the need to support small producers by ensuring that supply chains and open agro-markets continue to function. “Italy is committed to furthering the discussion on these issues,” she stated.

In his keynote speech, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, said that agriculture was a strategic sector in Africa as over 60 percent of its population lived in rural areas and was dependent on agriculture and food systems.

He also referred to challenges faced by that, including high exposure and vulnerability to external shocks and the lack of adequate protection of vulnerable groups, which are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic impacts. 

“COVID-19 is an extraordinary situation. It requires an extraordinary response –by everybody,” affirmed Haile-Gabriel, calling for longer-tern and sustainable solutions.

In this context, Abebe-Gabriel also stressed the need to seize the opportunities offered by innovation and digital agriculture and presented  examples of how this was already happening: a digital platform in Kenya that helps farmers determine when to plant and what inputs to use; , and a Nigerian platform that gives smallholders direct market access.

During the event, IAI presented the multimedia project “The African Century: People, Agriculture and the Environment”, which showcased how Ghana transitioned from outdated farming techniques to advanced, sustainable models by adopting innovation in the agri-food sector. 

Abebe Haile Gabriel’s speech is available here


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