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Why transforming African food systems require inclusive approach

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
19 September 2021   |   3:00 am
Contrary to the postulation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that Africa is unlikely to end hunger by the 2030 deadline set by the United Nations

[FILES] Food vendors at a market.

Contrary to the postulation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that Africa is unlikely to end hunger by the 2030 deadline set by the United Nations, experts say the adoption of a holistic sustainable agricultural transformation will be a game-changer to achieve the target.

At the 2021 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) — a hybrid summit with the theme: “Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems,” hosted in partnership with the Government of Kenya, the delegates expressed commitment to redefining the way food is produced, marketed, and consumed in Africa. 

With more than 8,500 delegates from 103 countries, including six Heads of States, 20 ministers, global business leaders, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, scientists, and international development partners, the consensus was reached to adopt a more holistic and inclusive approach to food systems with a view to tackle hunger and improve nutrition while conserving natural resources.

“We know that a failure to change will make it impossible to achieve the key sustainable development goal of ending hunger by 2030. Hunger and poverty in Africa can only end with resilient food systems,” the delegates stated in a declaration.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Board Chair of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, said the declaration is a turning point in Africa’s agriculture.

“We should do things differently by taking a more integrated approach to food systems. It begins with agriculture but goes right through the business of food until it ends on our plate and in our trash.

“In recognising the importance of food systems and how they can drive economic growth, we must take a holistic sustainable agricultural transformation, thinking the whole way from production to consumption. The task of transforming our food systems is for all of us. If we all do our bit, we will make it,” he said.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Peter Munya said: “The summit has helped us to recommit to the goals we set for ourselves as a continent, and individual countries, to end hunger by 2030.

“It is possible to deliver this because we have the resources, experience and knowledge and are mobilising the will. We need to support the young people of Africa to get involved in agriculture because there is no future without them.”

Coming ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), the AGRF Summit provided an opportunity to elevate the continent’s common position, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. This includes enhancing the resilience of Africa’s food system from external shocks, its fragility having been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

AGRA’s President, Dr Agnes Kalibata, said the wide representation and participation at the summit has helped clarify Africa’s position on food systems transformation. “The summit showed that we know how to reduce hunger and malnutrition and tackle obesity, but we can only do this by working together.

“We need to double down and come together to fix our broken food systems and meet the (SDG) goal of zero hunger by 2030. It is only by working together that we can help deliver food security and prosperity for people and our planet!”

The summit, with over 700 speakers, featured commitments on renewable energy, youth and women empowerment, and establishment of value chains.

It also led to the building of the emerging coalition of action for Decent Work and Living Incomes and the 43 game changing solutions, representing a coordinated African voice, that are being taken to the UNFSS.

The summit gathered consensus on the role of youth and women, as well as innovative technology to revitalise agricultural productivity and support farmers to build back better from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, to feed the growing population.

During the summit, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) was named 2021 Africa Food Prize laureate, for its work in improving food security across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2021 was also launched, indicating that sub-Saharan Africa has had the fastest growth in agricultural production since 2000.

Acting Managing Director at the AGRF, Jennifer Baarn, reaffirmed the forum’s commitment to advancing the actions towards 2030 to help identify pathways towards sustainable food systems in the continent.