FAO wants to withdraw Africa’s potential to end hunger, malnutrition

The director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, QU Dongyu, says the potential of Africa gives him hope that the fight against poverty and hunger can be won. He made the remarks during the opening of the Ministerial Segment of the 31st session of the Local Conference for Africa.

“We meet in difficult times, but the opportunities that lie ahead give me hope,” said Director-General Qu. “Africa is the continent with untapped potential and remains an important priority for me. I am convinced that agricultural and rural development are the keys to winning the fight against poverty and hunger in Africa.”

The conference is presented as a virtual event by the Government of Zimbabwe and in collaboration with FAO and brings together more than 95 ministers and government officials from 48 countries – a record attendance. Representatives of acting countries, donor organizations, civil society and the private sector are also attending, making it the FAO’s largest meeting in Africa.

“This year’s FAO Regional Conference for Africa is a unique cross-sectoral platform,” Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in his opening speech. Zimbabwe is the conference chairman taking over from Sudan. “We need to share experiences and provide solutions to common problems affecting the African region … Eliminating the hunger in Africa and responding to the various structural challenges we face as a continent requires strong partnerships, cooperation and commitment between the various stakeholders, “he said.

Solutions in difficult times

The conference comes amid growing hunger in Africa, driven by climate change, conflict and economic slowdown. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing food insecurity.

Amid several challenges, the Director-General cites concrete examples of partnerships between FAO, members and donor partners, such as the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control to ensure a strong coordinated approach at national, regional and global level, as well as the good progress in controlling desert locusts.

“In East Africa, the forward-looking action approach has been quite successful with national governments working with FAO and partners, protecting more than $ 580 million in crops, enough to meet the annual grain needs of 13 million people,” Qu said.

The director-general also pointed to gender equality as part of the solution. “We must give equal opportunities and rights to rural women,” he said. He also outlined Africa’s opportunities to transform its agricultural food systems, including new jobs due to growing food markets, the growing urban middle class on the continent and the rapid adoption of digital technologies, especially by African youth.

He reiterated the FAO’s agenda of transformative action to build a dynamic, inclusive and agile organization that serves its members to achieve the ‘four better’: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.

The Director-General acknowledged that African leadership had prioritized the Agenda for Agricultural Development through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Agricultural Transformation, and expressed its appreciation for the contribution of members to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund at FAO.

He invited country delegations to nominate locations to take part in FAO’s new 1000 Digital Villages project, which will transform towns or villages into digital hubs, and recognizes that digital links and rural tourism can help increase resilience, diversify and better rebuild farmers’ incomes.

“This is your conference – the local Governing Body session. My colleagues and I will be listening carefully,” said Director-General Qu.

He invited delegations to share the priorities they want to see in the new FAO strategic framework currently being prepared, as well as their expectations for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, and encouraged countries to identify behind regional champions and themselves to unite with it.

The Director-General also referred to the national priorities for the transformation of agri-food systems and the strong political commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG2 and SDG1 at national level.

Covid-19 pandemic

FAO supports governments across Africa in conducting predictive analyzes for the potential secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems, markets and agriculture. It is estimated that so far 12 million people across the continent have benefited from this effort.

For the FAO to continue its action to address the pandemic in a holistic and comprehensive manner, the Director-General emphasized the importance of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Program, which aims to have immediate consequences to reduce, while strengthening the long-term. resilience of food systems and livelihoods – in line with the United Nations ‘build to transform’ approach and the pursuit of Sustainable Development Goals.

The program is also closely linked to the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, the new FAO business model for collaboration that leverages a broad spectrum of partnerships and leverages the organization’s technical and data capabilities to determine the best options for the most vulnerable to achieve. the greatest impact on poverty and hunger.

We are in this together

Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and First Aid Coordinator, has acted in a number of areas: fully funded all humanitarian response plans, investing in disaster risk reduction and refocusing on multilateral cooperation to address the causes of hunger. “All of this is achievable if we agree to work together, with the understanding that it is in all our shared interests to do so. We are really all in this together,” he said.

Lucy Muchocki of the Pan African Agribusiness and Agroindustry Consortium, representing the private sector, said: “We want to commend the efforts of the FAO to involve the private sector in addressing some of the key issues in agriculture and trade in Africa. “We hope that discussions of this kind will become a regular occurrence, because we need to maintain the momentum to develop practical and action-oriented solutions that require collective efforts.”

Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, praised the strong cooperation with FAO to lead a multi-stakeholder response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the establishment of a joint task force.

Other speakers at the opening session included Khalid Mehboob, the independent chair of the FAO Council, and Thanawat Tiensin, chair of the Global Food Security Committee.

A historic regional conference

The conference is being hosted virtually for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The modality enabled more people to join, making it the largest regional conference ever for Africa. Hundreds of delegates joined the Zoom sessions, and many more watched the live webcast.

Other sessions focused on the impact of the pandemic on food security and nutrition, and the FAO hand-to-hand initiative. The conference ended on Wednesday 28 October.

By Modou Kanteh, MoA Information Officer

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