Member states from across the region participated in the 26th FAO Regional Conference for Africa which was held in Luanda, Angola from 3-7th May 2010.
The conference was opened by FAO’s Director General Jacques Diouf who pressed for more attention to be given towards Africa’s food crisis. “In sub-Saharan Africa, since 2009, over 265 million people are malnourished and 30% of the population suffers from hunger.” Diouf said in his opening statement. “The situation clearly demands our urgent and undivided attention.” he added.
During the conference delegates highlighted the funding challenges facing Africa’s agriculture sector stating that inadequate investment was at the root of Africa’s slow progress on agriculture reform. Members called for additional investments to be made available in order to meet poverty and hunger reduction targets. Concerns were raised regarding the failure to honour commitments made at recent Gleneagles and L’Aquilla international summits where world leaders promised billion of dollars in investment for food security in Africa. Issues surrounding the challenges posed by biofuels production were also discussed.
Delegates reaffirmed their commitment to the Common Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) standing by pledges made under the 2003 Maputo declaration to invest a target of 10% of national budgets towards agricultural development. Additionally, the promotion of the Africa Fertiliser Fund Mechanism and the implementation of the 2006 Abuja Fertiliser Summit recommendations were cited as important reform issues moving forward.
Africa’s food crisis was discussed as part of the conference agenda. Solutions proposed included the need to mainstream CAADP into national planning processes and to strengthen institutional and capacity building in developing post compact investment programmes and sector policies.
Concerns surrounding the negative impact of climate change on regional food security revealed the urgency for interventions that address collaboration with national government to ensure the integration of climate change responses in to mainstream programme frameworks, the promotion of forecasting models to inform local producers and to ensure that the indigenous knowledge of local producers is reflected in approaches for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The conference provided an opportunity to approve the programme framework for FAO in Africa for the next biennium and to reinforce the spirit of collaboration and interdependency between FAO and member country networks.
FAO activities in the region would be based around the four programme priorities agreed by member states. These were firstly, to increase agricultural productivity and diversification; secondly to promote sustainable Natural Resource Management; thirdly, to support market access and sanitary measures for better trade and lastly to develop knowledge management, information and advocacy in Africa.
Members were supportive of priorities proposed by FAO which were felt to be well aligned with the regional CAADP framework. Members also commented on the relevance of the conference agenda with its inclusion of current topics such as soaring food prices and climate change.
Discussions surrounding current FAO reform centred around the implications of decentralization for Africa, the importance of capacity building at country level and strengthening networks between country, sub regional and regional offices.
The conference is a statutory meeting for FAO which old biennial conferences for each of its programme regions including Latin America, the Near East and Asia.
The next FAO Regional Conference for Africa will be held in Brazzaville, Congo in 2012. The major theme for the conference is yet to be decided however possible topics for discussion include private sector assessment of government initiatives; agro business and agro industry development, South-South cooperation and progress on CAADP implementation.