FAO Liaison Office in New York

Africa’s sustainable development hinges on agriculture


“The battle for sustainable development in Africa must be fought and won in the agriculture and rural sectors,” emphasized Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Food and Agriculture Organization (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”. The event was co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Ghana and Italy to the United Nations, in collaboration with Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI).

In her opening remarks, Martha Ama Pobee, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations, noted the importance of sustainable agriculture for agrarian African countries. “This sector is uniquely placed to impact positively on many of the Global Goals, if we effectively harness the necessary resources to improve food production systems through sustainable agricultural models and market value chains,” 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. Zappia stated that “Italy is committed to furthering the discussion on these issues, also in its capacity as Chair of the United Nations Group of Friends on Food Security and Nutrition, and as supporter of a Food Coalition, led by FAO, so as to prevent the COVID-19 health emergency from turning into a food emergency.”

In his keynote speech, Abebe Haile Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, referred to the current three-fold challenge that Africa faces: climate change disasters, transboundary pests, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Gabriel went on to urge strengthening multilateral cooperation, so as to ensure that those who are already vulnerable do not lose their access to food. “We should also seize the opportunities offered by innovation and digital agriculture,” he noted before presenting the examples of a digital farming records platform in Kenya, 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project “The African Century: People, Agriculture and the Environment”, which showcased how Ghana transitioned from outdated farming techniques to advanced, sustainable models by adopting innovation in the agri-food sector.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