Climate Change

African ministers call for accelerating actions towards achieving food security

They advocated mainstreaming cross-cutting issues such as gender, nutrition and climate change post-COVID-19

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 29 October 2020
African ministers call for accelerating actions towards achieving food security. Photo: Flickr

The transformation of African agriculture and agri-food systems must be accelerated if the continent is to achieve food security, ministers of the continent’s countries said at the end of a recent conference.

Innovation and digital technologies would be key to growth of the agriculture sector, ministers of 48 African members of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted at the close of the first-ever virtual FAO Regional Conference for Africa.

The conference, hosted by Zimbabwe from October 26-28 2020, focused on rising food insecurity and malnutrition as impacts of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The ministers also called for mainstreaming cross-cutting issues such as gender, nutrition and climate change post-COVID-19. A report released by them October 28 recognised the need for including gender equality and rural women’s empowerment as priorities for the region. 

They also called upon the FAO to ensure support and leadership to African countries despite limited financial and human resources.

Hungry Africa

With 250 million people, Africa is the second-most undernourished continent after Asia (381 million). Undernourishment in Africa is further projected to increase by up to 40 million people in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Healthy diets have become simply unaffordable for close to a billion people in Africa, especially a basic meal in sub-Saharan Africa.

The continent has the highest prevalence of undernourishment (more than twice the global average), compared to other regions and the second-highest number of undernourished people, according to FAO.

If recent trends persist, Africa will overtake Asia to become the region with the highest number of undernourished people by 2030, the FAO has warned.

The continent is off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, even without considering the impacts of COVID-19, the delegates noted.

Considering this, the conference also addressed other existing crisis, including climate change, transboundary pests and diseases, conflict and economic downturns.

In 2019 alone, 26 million people were in need of urgent food assistance due to climate shocks in Africa according to the FAO Regional Office for Africa.

One-fourth of around 90 conflicts were in Africa. In 2019, nearly 37 million were in need of urgent food assistance, due to conflicts.

FAO has already launched a comprehensive COVID-19 response and recovery programme, with 7 key pillars including:

  • Reinforcing the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19
  • Improving data for decision-making
  • Ensuring economic inclusion and social protection to reduce poverty
  • Bolstering trade and food safety standards
  • Boosting smallholder resilience for recovery
  • Preventing the next zoonotic pandemic through a strengthened ‘One Health’ approach
  • Triggering food systems transformation 

FAO’s ‘Hand-in-Hand’ Initiative launched in October 2019 was showcased at the conference as a successful programme, with potential to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development.

The programme is being implemented in 11 African countries including Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe conference of October followed the second major ministerial meeting led by FAO in April 2020, to address the impacts of COVID-19 on food security in Africa.

In April, the organisation had agreed to work with all stakeholders to ensure food security and nutrition for all in the region during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and to enable meeting Africa’s commitment to ending hunger by 2025.

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