Distinguished Chairman of the African Group, H.E. Mr. Raymond Serge Balé,
Assistant Director-General, FAO, Ms. Maria Helena Semedo,
Commissioner of Agriculture for the African Union, Ms. Rhonda Peace,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, I wish to thank Your Excellency, Mr. Raymond Serge Balé, Chair of the panel and Chair of the African Group and Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Congo to the United Nations, and Hon. Lila Hanitra Ratsifandrihamanana for organizing this very important panel discussion on the State of Agriculture and Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges, Achievements and the Way Forward. I also wish to thank the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for their immense support of the process that has led to this panel discussion.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon since assumption of office has made Africa one of his top most priorities. In that context, to galvanize multilateral support for Africa, he set up the MDG Africa Steering Group which has quantified the resources necessary for Africa to achieve the MDG targets focusing on the critical sectors of infrastructure, education, health, and agriculture. The forthcoming MDG Summit later this year will provide special opportunity to reenergize the international communities support for Africa.
Recognizing the seriousness of the recent world food crisis, the Secretary-General set up the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis. The Task Force made up of heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes and the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as experts within the UN and leading authorities from the international community, has come up with a Comprehensive Framework for Action to outline short- and longer-term actions, such as food aid, social protection initiatives and agricultural boosts, to help counter the negative consequences of the food crisis for the most affected.
We congratulate you for keeping the focus on Agriculture and Food security in Africa. Agriculture is the cornerstone of the African economy and it is crucial for African governments to step up their investment in this sector if hunger, food insecurity and poverty are to be eliminated, in line with the continent’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), as well as the MDG target on hunger.
CAADP was conceived by Africans and has achieved a level of unprecedented political endorsement and continent-wide focus. CAADP’s agenda reflects a fundamental shift in the way Africa’s leadership looks at agriculture and its potential contribution to ending poverty and hunger. The African Union at country, regional and continental level has placed agriculture and food security high on its agenda.
African Governments are committed to an annual increase in agricultural productivity of 6 percent by investing at least 10 percent of national budgets in agriculture. Africa’s development partners have also pledged to step up their financial and technical support for Africa’s agricultural development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As it has been said before in other forums, the food crisis the world has experienced since 2008 is the worst in decades. Food prices escalated by more than 60 percent, even in developed countries within a short period of three months. In the developing world, the greatest impact was in the form of reduced access to food, leading to increased food insecurity to the extent that some countries experienced food riots.
While the food crisis has been serious in many parts of the world, in Africa and more so in sub-Saharan Africa, it is a matter of life and death. Over 50 million children are now malnourished in this region and more than half of the African population lives below absolute poverty levels. Worst of all, the region has experienced severe drought in the past couple of years and consequently over 70 million people have been compelled to rely on famine relief for survival.
The food security situation in sub-Saharan Africa is therefore worse at present than ever before. To remove food insecurity, we need to work towards increasing productivity to ensure that there is enough food within reach, in both affordability and distance. African countries are now spending large sums of foreign exchange to import food items such as rice, wheat, meat, milk and sugar. This is a serious problem.
We must therefore provide the necessary incentives for farmers to produce more. Africa is the one region of the world where per capita food production has declined steadily over the years. We must therefore avail the African farmers with the latest technologies and resources to produce competitively in both national and international markets. In this regard, it is crucial that African Governments allocate adequate resources in their budget share for agricultural development, in line with the Maputo Declaration.
The Sixth CAADP Partnership Platform recently held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 19-23 April 2010 further reinforced the need for partnership and determination to heighten the collective efforts towards the realization of the objectives of the CAADP in matching with the resolve reaffirmed by the African Heads of States. The main goals of the meeting included facilitating mutual review of progress, performance and challenges in advancing the CAADP agenda; dialogue on implementation priorities and processes; and fostering alignment and coherence in moving forward the CAADP agenda at the country level.
Also discussed at the meeting was the need for all parties to ensure sufficient country leadership, as well as inclusive engagement of farmer organizations, the private sector and civil society organizations. The meeting commended the rapid acceleration of the CAADP agenda implementation by Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and their member states.
Considering the comprehensive nature of the CAADP agenda and the need to promote its broad ownership within government and other stakeholder groups, the meeting also recommended changing the name of the investment plans to “Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Now I will speak a little bit on challenges and the way forward.
While, across the continent, a number of countries have been making some efforts to improve their agricultural output, many remain constrained thereby limiting their ability to meet the goals of income growth, increased food security and improved social well being of their populations.
The challenges are manifold. Some of the factors responsible for Africa’s under-productivity in agriculture include inconsistencies in policies, insufficient financing, lack of productive incentives, low level mechanization and industrialization, as well as poor pre and post-harvest management of the crops.
In spite of the rhetoric on commitments to CAADP and food production, the stark reality is that many African governments are not giving sufficient focus to agriculture in general, and to local food production, in particular. Farming is still not an attractive enterprise for young people. Seeds and fertilizers are not readily available. Feeder roads have not been sufficiently built, efficient marketing arrangements are few and far between.
Women, who do most of the food farming in Africa, have hitherto received little attention in terms of government policy. Moreover, Agricultural extension services, as well as research and development in Agriculture, has largely ignored women.
Irrigation in sub-Saharan Africa remains far below the requisite levels, indeed far below the levels in Asia and South America. CAADP recognizes this gap and makes appropriate recommendations but the political commitment and resources must be better mobilized.
Land reform is another major but highly sensitive area requiring urgent attention. Given the complexities and political sensitivities involved, a one-size fits all approach is unlikely to succeed. Many different land tenure systems coexist in different parts of the continent, sometimes even in one country. Appropriate reforms need to be implemented, but these must be tailor made to suit the special circumstances of different parts of Africa. Above all, successful land reforms will be those which the local citizens themselves have designed and will therefore be committed to implement effectively.
For many Africans, food insecurity and poverty continue to affect daily survival as a result of continuing reduction in soil nutrients and fertility, continuous decline in farming activities, leading to a hike in the cost of staple foods, as well as rising cost of farm and farming technologies.
Among countries with the largest increase in domestic prices of main staples for January –October 2009 were several sub-Saharan countries: Nigeria (Sorghum 50%), Uganda (Maize 16%), Sudan (Sorghum 24%), Tanzania (Maize 23%) and Kenya (Maize 16%). The upward trend in price of staples in domestic markets is worrisome as it posses a significant threat to both food security and nutrition in the region.
The emerging consensus today is for agriculture to be the central focal point of the continent’s economic development. This will require that investments in agriculture go beyond the current stop-gap improvements in on-farm productivity to include large-scale development of the agri-business and agro-industrial sectors.
In this regard, African governments, in collaboration with international development partners have formulated an African Agribusiness and Agro-industries initiative (3ADI), designed to provide a continent-wide support for the development of the agri-business and agro-industrial sectors.
The initiative builds on the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) commitment of the African Union. The CAADP seeks to create, by the year 2020, an agricultural sector in Africa that consists of highly productive and profitable value chains and accessible and competitive local and international markets. This is expected to translate into the supply of higher-value food, fiber, feed and fuel products, increased farmers’ incomes, high quality employment and optimal and sustainable utilization of natural resources.
One of the objectives of the 3ADI is to mobilize resources from domestic and international financial systems, for a more comprehensive private sector investment and participation in the agriculture sector in Africa, towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty and hunger by the year 2015.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in its 2009 Economic Report for Africa, also recognizes agribusiness and agro-industries as a path-way to agriculture-led economic transformation in Africa and the commission is also spear-heading advocacy in this regard.
Against this background, a High Level Conference on the Development of Agribusiness and Agro-industries in Africa was held in Abuja, Nigeria, from 8-10 March 2010, with the mandate to review and approve a programme framework and an associated financial facility for the development of agri-business and agro-industries in Africa.
Significantly, intervention strategies for a comprehensive continent-wide implementation of the initiative will necessarily need to focus on the formulation of enabling policies, reinforcing financing and risk mechanisms through the creation of innovative institutions and services, as well as the provision of requisite skills and technologies for the post-production segments of the value chains. Given the pivotal potential that the 3ADI possess, it is critical that the framework is translated to sustainable and efficient action plans for alleviating poverty among African countries.
Finally Ladies and Gentlemen,
Permit me to express my deep gratitude to all the panelists who will shed light on the current status of agriculture and food security in Africa, and the implementation of CAADP. May I also thank the organizers of this panel discussion as it will give us an opportunity to review progress in the implementation of the CAADP.
I wish you successful deliberations.