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"Enormous opportunity" for ending hunger in Africa

Proposed new partnership will build on successes, political commitment

Photo: ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico
Graziano da Silva with (from left) Amadou Allahoury Diallo (Niger), Jeffrey Luhanga (Malawi) and Rigobert Maboundou (Chair of FAO Regional Conference for Africa).

22 April 2013, Rome - Ministers and senior delegates from five African Nations met today with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva ahead of a High-Level meeting of African and international leaders in Addis Ababa next June set to create a renewed partnership for intensifying efforts to end hunger in Africa.

"There is an enormous window of opportunity," for eradicating hunger in the continent, Graziano da Silva told a side-event organized during a week-long Session of FAO's governing Council here. The key lies in capitalizing on the successes of the many African countries who have already found solutions for food insecurity and malnutrition.

"By building on these experiences we can eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa. Together we can stop the suffering of the estimated 23 percent of all Africans who remain undernourished, and 40 percent of children under five who are stunted or malnourished," he said.

One reason for optimism is the unprecedented political commitment of governments and the African people to end hunger. An example is the decision of FAO's regional Conference for Africa to set up an Africa Food Security Trust Fund.  The Republic of the Congo, Angola and Equatorial Guinea have already announced they will contribute.

New, unified approaches

Together with political commitment, partnership is the key. "This is the reason why FAO joined forces with the African Union and Brazil's Instituto Lula to host a High-Level meeting in Addis Ababa from 30 June to 1 July called "New, unified approaches to end hunger in Africa".

The new approach will build on the work of the 10-year-old Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which is already running successfully in 30 countries, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's  Zero Hunger Challenge, in order to harness strong and sustained political commitment to end hunger in Africa.

"Our aim is to see what works for Africans and non-Africans, to learn from those experiences, to scale up already successful activities, to fill gaps we identify and, if necessary, adjust or rethink our approach," Graziano da Silva said.

Innovative partnerships

"We intend to apply forms of innovative partnerships, to involve all sectors of society, to strengthen collective responsibility, and in this way to improve implementation of CAADP goals," he added.

Guests on the podium at the side event included Rigobert Maboundou, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Republic of Congo, and Chair of the 27th FAO Regional Conference; Amadou Allahoury Diallo, High Commissioner of the Republic of Niger's Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens (3N) initiative; Jeffrey Luhanga, Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security of the Ministry of Agriculture, Republic of Malawi; Florêncio Mariano da Conceição, Ambassador of the Republic of Angola; and Abreha Aseffa, Deputy Permanent Representative to FAO of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. Lailà Lokosang , CAADP Advisor on Nutrition and Food Security, represented the African Union's Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Tumusiime Rhoda Peace.

Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger have asked FAO to enhance its support to their efforts to promote food security and nutrition in the framework of the New, Unified Approaches to End Hunger in Africa. The pilot phase of the partnership will therefore begin in those four countries.

Niger's Amadou Diallo told today's forum that although his country had a long history of droughts and food crises its 3N initiative aims to ensure that "drought no longer rhymes with famine". The programme centres on improving smallholders' access to water, inputs, information and training. Social protection through safety nets, cash and food vouchers, and school canteens is also essential, as is the promotion of local markets with the objective of achieving  "zero transport" distribution of produce.

Consistent political will

Malawi's Jeffrey Luhanga said the country had turned itself from a heavy food importer into a food surplus producer in less than a decade. One reason was "consistent political will", with  17 percent of the country's budget now devoted to the farm sector. Another important element was the subsidized inputs offered by the Government to farmers, while a current push was being made to increase production of legumes and beans - poor people's food -  and encourage people to keep sheep and goats.

Angola's Florêncio Mariano da Conceição said a basic objective of his country's national development plan was the promotion of a competitive and sustainable agricultural sector to provide food for domestic consumption. The programme included promotion of smallholder credit facilities and improvement of roads, railways and ports.  Another key element was provision of water to all - with 60 percent of the rural population now having proper access to water.

For Ethiopia,  Abreha Aseffa said that the country is running the largest social protection programme in sub-Saharan Africa, covering 6.8 million chronically food-insecure people. This included microfinance services, cash and food vouchers, cash-for work public infrastructure programmes and other initiatives to build community and individual resilience. The country is set on "accelerated and sustained development to end poverty" he said.

Enabling environment

On behalf of the African Union Laila Lokaseng said a key element in hunger eradication was the creation and sustenance of an enabling environment and of the right leadership to drive a zero hunger agenda. Well-grounded, sustainable coordination mechanisms for multisector response is vital too.

Rigobert Maboundou, Chair of the 27th FAO Regional Conference, stressed it is important for all countries to respect the commitments they made at that Conference. In boosting agricultural production, partnerships are important in order to muster appropriate resources, as are appropriate legislative frameworks that foster sustainable agricultural development.

Summarizing the discussions, Graziano da Silva listed seven elements which he said are essential in any national "menu" aimed at achieving food security: 1. Political will. 2. The creation of local markets. 3) Promoting rural development, including storage and transport infrastructure. 4. Recognizing that small farmers are not part of the problem but part of the solution.5. Awareness that increasing agricultural and livestock production is not enough to pull people out of poverty: social protection is needed too. 6.Coordination and governance is fundamental in implementing actions. 7. Build resilience rather than just address immediate needs.