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Agriculture ‘engine of growth’ that Africa needs

FAO Director-General marks launch of the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security and 2025 zero hunger target

29 January 2014, Addis Ababa/Rome – Agriculture must become the engine for growth that Africa needs to eradicate hunger and boost sustainable food production, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

Speaking at a side event on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Graziano da Silva called on Africa to step up its efforts.

“More than one out of every five of its citizens is still denied the right to food,” the Director-General said.

Noting that most of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, he stressed that the region had the power to change the situation.

The challenge for Africa is to make this economic growth more inclusive by targeting agricultural and rural development, women and young people, he said.

Some 75 percent of Africans are 25 years old and under, and the population is expected to remain largely rural for the next 35 years, with women heading up many households.

“Agriculture is the only sector of the economy capable of absorbing this workforce,” the Director-General said. “There is no inclusive and sustainable way forward for Africa without women, youth and agriculture.”

African Year of Agriculture and Food Security

Governments will have the opportunity to renew their support for agricultural development during the 2014 African Year of Agriculture and Food Security, which will be launched during the African Union Summit this week.

“The launch of the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security is an important step towards a hunger-free and sustainable Africa that [late South African leader] Nelson Mandela and many others have dreamed of and fought for,” Graziano da Silva said.

The Director-General noted that the African Year will build on the efforts of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), launched in 2003.

The African Year of Agriculture and Food Security is being observed in parallel with the United Nations’ International Year of Family Farming, also celebrated in 2014.

“For many years and in many parts of the world, small-scale farmers, pastoralist families and fisher folk were viewed as part of the problem of hunger,” Graziano da Silva said.

“That could not be further from the truth. Family farmers are already the main food producers in most countries, and they can do even more with the right kind of support.”

Improving access to financial services, training, mechanization and technology can transform subsistence farmers into efficient producers.

Through methods that increase production while preserving natural resources, family farming also provides a sustainable alternative to input-intensive technologies that have resulted in damage to soil quality, land, water and biodiversity, Graziano da Silva said.

2025 Zero Hunger target

The Director-General praised what he described as “the commitment, at the highest level, of an entire continent” to end hunger in Africa by 2025.

The African Union Summit is due to adopt the target this week, in line with the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Women work in a taro garden patch in Gashikanwa, Burundi.