By Abdallah el-Kurebe
Abidjan, Cote I’Voire – April 7, 2016: – The Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva has stated that although Africa had made great strides in tackling hunger by achieving a 30 percent drop in the proportion of its people that were facing hunger between the period of 1990-2015, climate change, conflict and social inequality continue to present major challenges in the continent’s quest for a future that would be free from hunger and want.
Da Silva, speaking on Thursday at the opening ceremony of a Ministerial Roundtable of FAO’s biennial Regional Conference for Africa held between April 4th-8th, 2016 in Abidjan, Cote I’Voire noted that while the overall proportion of Africans who were food insecure had dropped, there were “significant variations” in the numbers of food insecure that could be seen from country to country.
“Africa’s economic performance remains robust with growth rates above the global average. However, vulnerability to climate change is high, post-harvest losses are considerable, natural resources are being depleted, and not everyone is benefiting from the proceeds of the current strong economic growth. Access to remunerative income, social protection systems and decent employment opportunities remain narrow for too many rural households,” the FAO’s Director-General said.
He urged participants at the Conference to continue to work together in order to harness the power of the food and agriculture sector as a catalyst for inclusive growth, poverty reduction and fighting hunger. “In spite of the many hurdles along the way, today I urge you to look at how far we have come in the journey to end hunger in our lifetimes.”
According to Da Silva, the Conference’s theme, ”Transforming African Agri-food Systems for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity” mirrors the vision of the African Union and its NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency to realise a renewed vision for Africa’s agriculture sector. “This conference adds momentum to the push for a fundamental shift in the orientation of Africa’s agricultural and rural development towards transforming the lives of Africans begun under the 2014 Malabo Declaration and outlined in the Africa’s Agenda 2063”, he stressed.
The FAO DG further said that of particular worry in Africa is the challenges of El Niño, climate change, noting that the ongoing El Niño cycle was affecting large parts of the African continent, especially the southern sub-region as well as parts of East Africa, “notably Ethiopia and Tanzania, and has taken a major tool on agriculture, while conflicts in the Central African Republic, Somalia, and South Sudan continue to have serious food insecurity repercussions.”
While saying that FAO was working in all the hotspots, providing farmers with seeds, tools, and other support that were vital to maintaining and strengthening their ability to produce food and earn income, Da Silva said: “These crises vividly remind us of the importance of scaling up resilience interventions targeting vulnerable populations whose livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture, livestock, fisheries forestry and other renewable natural resources.”
Underscoring the importance of preventing epidemics diseases like Ebola, which impacted negatively on food security and people’s livelihoods in West Africa, he said that FAO recently launched a five-year programme in Africa to monitor and tackle emerging pandemic threats at their source in animals in 13 countries.
Africans for Africa
Delivering on the 2025 Zero Hunger challenge as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the DG explained, required the efforts of an alliance of partners and that “FAO stands ready to support Africa member states in the delivery of the SDGs in firm collaboration with the African Union, other regional institutions and humanitarian and development partners.”
A total of 54 African ministers of agriculture and related sectors, as well as technical experts and development specialists, representatives of regional organizations and institutions, members of civil society, the private sector and the Media are attending the event.