FAO Regional Office for Africa

Greater investments in agriculture needed to address rising hunger in the Sahel

FAO Deputy Director-General Semedo remarks to CILSS Heads of State meeting

“Massive investments in rural development and agriculture must go hand in hand with efforts to build lasting peace in the region,” FAO’s Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo said. ©FAO

20 July 2020 – The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo has urged countries in the Sahel to invest in rural development and peace initiatives to address the root causes of rising hunger in the region.

Semedo made the remarks at the 19th Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

“Massive investments in rural development and agriculture must go hand in hand with efforts to build lasting peace in the region,” Semedo said.

“We must seize, accelerate and multiply the huge opportunities for the agricultural sector,” she urged, adding, “If we fail to restore food production and transform food systems, the suffering from food insecurity will worsen while dependence on external aid will intensify”.

Leaders from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Niger addressed the session, which was also attended by high-level representatives from the African Union Commission, the African Union Development Agency, the African Development Bank, the Commission for the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the Islamic Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Increasing hunger in West Africa

The Deputy Director-General highlighted new hunger statistics released by FAO and partner UN agencies in the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report.

The report estimates that nearly 690 million people worldwide are hungry, including 250 million who live in Africa where the number of undernourished people is growing faster than in any other region of the world.

In West Africa, the prevalence of undernourishment increased rapidly between 2010 and 2019, jumping from 12.1 to 15.2 percent or 37 million people to 59.4 million. The report forecasts a rise to 23 percent (118.8 million people) by 2030 – without taking into account the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working in partnership to end hunger

More than 80 percent of people in the region depend on agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry for their livelihoods. However,  the Sahel is facing numerous challenges including the need to strengthen resilience, combat growing food and nutrition insecurity, support pastoralism, face the threat of a possible Desert Locust invasion, and adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Semedo outlined FAO’s work with governments in the region to address these challenges including strengthening information networks to support policy making, increasing investments in resilient livelihoods, and building national capacities to scale up good agricultural, pastoral and agro-pastoral practices to increase productivity and social cohesion.

FAO has a longstanding partnership with CILSS of almost 50 years and is currently the chair of the Technical Committee of the unique Cadre Harmonisé which provides twice-yearly food security analysis of the region to support informed decision-making.