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Africa to Focus on Agriculture and Food Security

Global News - Middle East/Africa

SHARM-EL-SHEIKH – The African Union will focus on agriculture and food security, as pledged by the Union's Chairperson Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika when he accepted the position on 31 January at the Summit of AU Heads of State and Government, held in Addis Ababa. Both the African and Arab regions have adequate resources to improve agricultural productivity and ensure food and nutrition security. These resources can be drawn upon to advance the agricultural agenda faster. In this respect, the African Union and the League of Arab States should move together to support the vision of a hunger-free Africa in the next five years.

This was said in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt today by the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, at the start of an experts meeting ahead of the Joint Afro Arab Ministerial Meeting on Agricultural Development and Food Security, being held from 14–16 February. AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Julia Joiner is also attending.

Tumusiime said a coherent, consistent and effective mechanism is required to respond to issues of malnutrition, food insecurity, and poverty. “For Africa, the Comprehensive Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) provides such a framework,” she observed. Commissioner Tumusiime recalled that CAADP is built on the following key pillars:

The first is extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems; the second pillar focuses on improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access; the third pillar is increasing food supply, reducing hunger, and improving risk management and crisis response; and the fourth pillar focuses on improving agriculture research, technology dissemination, and adoption.

The underlying principles of CAADP envisage an increase to at least 10% national budget allocations to agriculture so as to achieve at least 6% growth in the agricultural sector, and promote food and nutrition security.

The commissioner emphasised that commitments to work towards strengthening governance for food security, eliminating hunger and malnutrition, and promoting rural development are not an option but that they need to be undertaken in a concerted fashion. “This means that we have to do things differently,” she said.

Although the AU has been able to mobilize the global community around the agriculture and food security agenda, Commissioner Tumusiime indicated that this is not enough unless the real impact is felt on the ground in terms of food and nutrition security. “This is where we must all get focused and move together especially as we implement the joint action plan to be endorsed by this meeting,” she added.

Both the heads of delegations of the League of Arab States and the host country, Egypt, who addresses the experts' meeting's opening session, endorsed the important role that agriculture plays in the economies of Africa and the LAS. Dr. Thamer El-Aani of the LAS called for upscaling of political and economic cooperation between the two regions and for concerted efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He laid out pillars that are important as both Africa and the LAS seek to adopt strategies to improve agriculture and ensure food security, such as the need to provide food for all the people; the food supply must be stable and available throughout the year; food must be available at affordable prices and it must be made available according to international standards.

The Chairperson of the Afro Arab Experts and Head of the Egyptian delegation, Dr. Saad Nasser, recalled that the agricultural sector, like other sectors, has been impacted by soaring food prices as of 2007 and by the global financial crisis that hit the world in 2008. Other challenges such as climate change, scarcity of water, desertification, spread of diseases, and deterioration in the quality of the soil have also had a negative impact on productivity. “These challenges call on us to work together,” he concluded.

In their two-day meeting, from 14–15 February, the experts will be briefed on the CAADP and the Arab strategy to promote agricultural development and food security. Their deliberations will also focus on the proposed joint plan of action between the AU and the LAS as well as mechanisms for implementation and follow-up. The experts meeting being precedes the “monumental” first Joint Afro Arab Ministers of Agriculture meeting on agricultural development and food security to be held on 16th February at the Maritim Jolie Ville Congress Center in Sharm El Sheikh.

Proceedings for the ministerial meeting will start at 09:30 and will conclude at 18:00 on the same day.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

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