Peter Luethi, Biovision Foundation
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Participants to the FAO Regional Conference for Africa called for “redoubling” efforts to ensure that Africa can eradicate hunger by 2025.

FAO also issued an alert cautioning that drought conditions on Southern Africa could affect food security in short term.

Two new partnerships will support farmers in Africa and around the world in adopting climate-smart technologies and improving farmers’ capacities to participate in decision making and gain access to markets.

27 February 2018: Mixed messages emerged during the last week of February regarding the prospects for achieving zero hunger in Africa. Optimistic statements at the Regional Conference for Africa of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) according to which zero hunger in Africa can be achieved by 2025, were followed by a warning that adverse weather could affect food security in Southern Africa in the short term.

Africa has set the goal to achieve zero hunger by 2025, five years ahead of the deadline set by SDG 2. Despite recent reports that show hunger increased in 2016 in many African countries for the first time in a decade, primarily due to conflict, participants to the FAO Regional Conference for Africa expressed optimism that the goal can be attained. According to Director-General José Graziano da Silva, the main reasons for confidence are increased political will, better access to funding for climate resilience and an improving global economy.

Da Silva presented the report of the African Union High-Level Meeting on hunger titled ‘Achieving Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025: Taking Stock of Progress,’ noting that “it is time to redouble our efforts, and push for political commitment and timely, concrete actions such as never seen before.” The report includes a joint communique in which the meeting participants express concern about continued conflict and adverse impacts of climate change on food security in many African countries. It concludes with a call for action to African Union member states to: strengthen resilience of populations, empower vulnerable groups, promote agribusiness, implement good governance, promote harmonization of national policies and strengthen institutional capacities for effective implementation.

The Regional Conference for Africa also discussed measures to improve employment opportunities for rural African youth, focusing on opportunities along the food chain and improved connections with urban markets. According to estimates, 12 million young Africans are expected to enter the labor market every year. Participants stressed that creating jobs in the agrifood sector could reduce pressures on migration, enhance synergies between agriculture and non-farm labor and support rural structural transformation and improved rural-urban linkages.

The FAO Regional Conference for Africa was held 19-23 February 2018 in Khartoum, Sudan. [FAO Press Release. 22 February. Zero hunger] [Achieving Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025: Taking Stock of Progress] [FAO Press Release. 22 February. Youth employment] [FAO Regional Conference for Africa]

Drought Threatens Yields in Southern Africa

While increased political will and action in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors can improve the long-term outlook for food security in Africa, short-term prospects are a reason for concern due to recent adverse weather conditions in Southern Africa. Only a week after the Regional Conference, FAO issued a Special Alert through its Global Information and Early Warning System of Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) stressing the risk of harvest shortfalls in Southern Africa after a period of erratic rains and above-average temperatures. While some of the expected production declines will be cushioned by cereal stocks built up over the last years, the publication warns that food insecurity in the region could intensify over the next months as lower harvests are expected to drive up food prices and cause local shortfalls in supply. The report also notes that many households are still recovering from losses during a drought in 2016 caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and could thus be less resilient against food price shocks. [FAO Press Release. 27 February] [GIEWS Special Alert No. 343]

New Partnerships to Support Farmers in Africa and Worldwide

In related news, two new partnerships aim to improve the situation of farmers in Africa and around the world. The West Africa Agriculture Transformation Program (WAATP) aims to scale-up climate smart technologies, enhance job creation and increase access to regional markets for targeted communities. WAATP’s overall objective is to enhance food systems through action in five areas: strengthening innovation; accelerating large-scale adoption of novel technologies; improved policies, markets and institutions; contingent emergency response; and project management, learning, monitoring and evaluation. Implemented by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), the undertaking builds on the exiting West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP), which achieved adoption of more than 200 technologies by 4.5 million producers in the region. [CORAF/WECARD Press Release] [ClimateAction News Story]

Taking a complementary approach, a new partnership between FAO and AgriCord, a global alliance of agriculture agencies mandated by farmers organizations, aims to enhance the participation of family and smallholder framers in decision making and build their capacity to improve access to markets. The agreement focuses on support for family framers to access markets and become more resilient against impacts of climate change, both through support to producer organizations and direct support to smallholder farmers. [FAO Press Release. 27 February. AgriCord] [AgriCord Press Release]

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