Farmers, stakeholders chart ways for improved urban food system
As part of efforts to overcome urban under-nutrition and to accelerate urban food system planning, more attention should be paid on improved urban food system governance, efficient wholesale marketing, safety regulation and enforcement.
Other areas to pay serious attention to include; regional free trade, agricultural policy harmonisation, agricultural research focused on high-growth and high-value food commodities.
These were some of the recommendations of stakeholders at the just concluded African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) virtual summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Themed: ‘Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa,’ it was a call to rethink Africa’s food system in the delivery of resilient, better nourished, and more prosperous outcomes for all.
The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move agriculture forward in the continent.
Domestic food distribution systems, intra-African trade and food safety are the other themes of the report leading to the conclusion that improved urban food system governance and performance can create new opportunities for Africa to transform its agricultural endeavour into thriving businesses.
The AGRF Board Chair and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Dessalegn, emphasised that agriculture remains the surest path to inclusive economic growth, jobs creation and dealing with the many challenges around climate change, migration and beyond. According to the Ethiopian leader, no region has built a modern economy without first strengthening its agricultural sector.
Speaking during the launch of the Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR), Dr. Kalibata, President, AGRA, said: “We can actually use cities to really grow our rural population, but we won’t do that unless we address the challenges we have talked about and also rethink our food systems,” Dr. Kalibata.
During a plenary session featuring eminent leaders, Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, outlined a five-point plan about how Europe and the U.S. could help Africa accelerate its international trade.
“First, talk with farmers. Offer them a hand-up, but let them choose the direction to take. Don’t issue a mandate. Next, go deeper on free-trade agreements. Third, help open up opportunities for Africa that don’t tie them or restrict their growth. Then allow farmers to develop their own innovative spirit and let them choose what’s right for them. Finally, encourage sustainability,” he said.
At a session focused on how women are developing innovative solutions to overcome the challenges created by Coronavirus (COVID-19), Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director at AWARD, Kenya, said: “Male scientists are now understanding for the first time the importance of care work and its unpaid nature, which is forcing institutions to make better accommodation for all. We are realising that the traditionally female roles of care and community are part of building resilience and men are now invited to participate more fully in this.”
The highlight of the forum was the launch of AASR, which has being a reference point for emerging issues, including staple crops (2013), climate change (2014), youth in agriculture (2015), agricultural transformation (2016), smallholder agriculture (2017), government capacity (2018) and the hidden middle (2019) on agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This year’s AASR focuses on Feeding Africa’s Cities by assessing the opportunities, challenges and policies required to enable farmers and agribusinesses serve the rapidly growing urban food markets. The report seeks to find ways for smallholder farmers to drive food security, rural prosperity and inclusive economic growth.
The report outlined the opportunities provided by Africa’s urban food markets to the continent’s over 60 million farms. It indicated that cities shape Africa’s agribusiness by affecting patterns of production, processing and distribution plans.
Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy, said: “This year’s AASR shows that as the centre of gravity in Africa’s agri-food systems shifts increasingly towards urban areas, a combination of new, non-traditional actors – including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organisations and public health professionals – are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy.”
Subsequent chapters touch on the opportunities in Africa’s growing urban food markets while recognizing that the effective governance of urban food systems requires inclusive models that coordinate and harmonise the actions of the many diverse players now shaping African agri-food systems.
“Traditional markets and small-format shops currently account for 80 to 90 per cent of urban food retailing in African cities. Supermarket shares, though currently small, seem likely to increase in the coming decades. Small farmers reach urban food markets primarily via traditional wholesale markets and the efficient operation of these markets, therefore, becomes key to small farmer access and competitiveness,” reads the report, in part.
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