DG, FAO, Mr. José Graziano da Silva
Crusoe Osagie with agency report
Ministers and senior delegates of African nations have met with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, ahead a High-Level meeting of African and international leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The next meeting, planned for June, is 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 organised during a week-long Session of FAO's governing Council.
The key, according to him, lies in capitalising 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 per cent of all Africans who remain under-nourished, and 40 per cent 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 Congo, Angola and Equatorial Guinea have already announced they will contribute.
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.
"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.
Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger have asked FAO to enhance its support for 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 the 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.
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 per cent of the country's budget now devoted to the farm sector.
Another important element was the subsidised 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.
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 multi-sector response is vital too.
Chair of the 27th FAO Regional Conference, Rigobert Maboundou, 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 is are appropriate legislative frameworks that foster sustainable agricultural development.
Summarising the discussions, Graziano da Silva listed seven elements, which he said are essential in any national "menu" aimed at achieving food security:
These include: political will; creation of local markets; promoting rural development, including storage and transport infrastructure; recognising that small farmers are not part of the problem but part of the solution; and awareness that increasing agricultural and livestock production is not enough to pull people out of poverty: social protection is needed too.
Others are that coordination and governance is fundamental in implementing actions; and to build resilience rather than just address immediate needs.