Parliamentary alliances

Safeguarding the “Right to Food” in Eastern Africa through improved legislation

@FAO/Abebe D. Banjaw

New Parliamentary Alliance will strengthen political commitment and accountability

17/04/2019 - 

Arusha – Recognizing the lack of progress in improving food security and nutrition situation in Eastern Africa, parliamentarians from nine nations have pledged to urge their governments to intensify their battle against food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger by enacting sound legislation and allocating adequate resources.

During their first Annual Meeting, held from 15 to 17 April 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania, members of the newly-formed “Eastern African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition" (EAPA FSN) expressed their commitment to leverage their critical role as legislators to promote the Right to Food, so that every woman, man and child in the subregion would be able to access and make use of adequate and nutritious food.

Officially opening the Annual Meeting and the launch of EAPA FSN, the Right Hon. Job Yustino Ndugai, Speaker of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, expressed his concern over the severity of food insecurity and malnutrition in the subregion, despite the area being endowed with significant natural resources.

“A significant number of people in our subregion experience food shortages, malnutrition and hunger on a daily basis. Access to adequate food is a human right of every person that is to be fulfilled through appropriate and coordinated actions by governments and non-state actors. Members of Parliaments, through this Alliance, must play an important role by creating a conducive legislative environment and accountability for ending hunger and malnutrition in the region,” Hon. Ndugai said.

David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the Africa Union and UNECA, lamented the fact that undernourishment in Africa affects over 236 million people, including over 132 million in Eastern Africa. Similarly, despite important efforts, the prevalence of severe food insecurity is on the rise in the subregion, with over 32% of the total population is severely affected.

Countries that are committed to the values and principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and that effectively implemented their National Agriculture Investment Plans, performed better insuccessfully reducing food insecurity and malnutrition, Phiri remarked. "Members of the EAPA-FSN have therefore the responsibility to strengthen commitments to the CAADP goals and to accelerate efforts toward formulating and implementing National and Regional Agricultural Investment Plans and other policies and legislative frameworks." 

Hon. Mathias Kasamba, Chair of the Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resource Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) said that FAO has taken a commendable initiative in galvanizing the formation of the EAPA-FSN, recognizing the fact that appropriate policies, laws and sound investments spur sustainable food and nutrition security in Africa.

“The newly-formed EAPA FSN should ensure governments are on the right path to transform the agricultural sector from its existing rudimentary stage to a modern system, where the youth can benefit in terms of employment and investment,” he noted.

The Head of Division, Health, Population and Nutrition at the African Union Commission, Margaret Agama-Anyetei also stressed that policies, legislations and adequate budgets that promote rural development and sustainable food security are urgent and critical to realise the objectives of AU Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want.

“The role of this Alliance will be paramount in support of national efforts in averting conflicts, controlling cross-border diseases, as well as investing in nutrition-sensitive agriculture and natural resource management towards ending hunger and malnutrition,” she added.

Members of parliaments from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as from the East African Legislative Assembly and the Inter-parliamentary Union of IGAD formed the Alliance in the pursuit of driving the food security and nutrition agenda forward at national and regional levels. After intensive discussion, participating MPs endorsed the EAPA FSN founding document. An Executive Committee of five members was elected to coordinate the activities of the alliance for the next two years. Hon. Abdi Hassen Ali, Chair of the Somalia Parliamentary Alliance against hunger and malnutrition, was elected as a Chairperson of the Executive Committee and the Alliance.

Representatives from IGAD, the Tanzanian Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, UNICEF Tanzania and government of Tanzania also took part and expressed their continuous support to the Alliance. Experts from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) facilitated a knowledge sharing and capacity building event onregional and global commitments for achieving food security and nutrition as well as the linkages of governance of tenure with food security in Eastern Africa. The meeting convened about 40 participants from 11 countries.