African Countries Urged to Transform Food Systems
By Gift Briton
With over 280 million people still facing hunger in Africa, most countries in the continent may not achieve the 2030 global goals to end poverty and hunger, according to Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO).
As of 2021, 490 million people in Africa were already living in extreme poverty and one billion people not able to afford a healthy diet .
“Recovery from Covid-19 shocks has been challenging to many African countries and therefore transforming agricultural food systems must be an urgent task for all countries,” Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General Regional Representative for Africa said during the 32nd FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
He added that modernization of agriculture and rural transformation will play a central role in achieving sustainable development and prosperity in Africa.
According to Haile-Gabriel, actions geared towards achieving zero hunger and realizing sustainable agri-food systems will accelerate progress not only in the fight against hunger but also across many other sustainable development goals and targets, maximizing and scaling up results.
Furthermore, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine are already causing disruption to agri-food systems, a sector which directly employs over one billion people and provides livelihoods to another 3.5 billion, which could temporarily disrupt the incomes and, by extension, food access of 1.5 billion people.
Participants at the conference deliberated and provided guidance on FAO’s regional priorities for Africa against hunger and poverty. At the core of the deliberations revolved around innovation, one health platform, policy priorities for inclusive and resilient recovery from the impacts of various shocks on agri-foods systems, investing in ecosystem restoration, promoting trade and investment as well as ensuring that women and rural people are not left behind.
In order to achieve these goals, the organization has developed a Strategic Framework 2022-2023 that seeks to transform agri-food systems to achieve more efficient, sustainable, resilient and inclusive agri-foods systems for better environment, better life, better production and better nutrition (the four betters), leaving no one behind.
To ensure that there is a better production in Africa, FAO aims to create a sustainable consumption and production patterns, through efficient and inclusive food and agricultural supply chains at local, regional and global level and ensure that there are resilient and sustainable agri-food systems in a changing climate and environment.
To achieve this goal, FAO will prioritize on innovation for sustainable agricultural production, blue transformation, one health, provide equitable access to resources by small-scale producers and digital agriculture.
Also, FAO seeks to champion for a better nutrition across Africa so as to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition in all its forms, including promoting nutritious food and increasing access to healthy diets, in which, emphasis will be placed on providing healthy diets for all, nutrition for the most the vulnerable, safe food for everyone, reducing food loss and waste, and transparent markets and trade.
For a better environment, the organization aspires to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and combat climate change (reduce, reuse, recycle, residual management) through more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.
Here, FAO will put more emphasis on climate change mitigation and adapted agri-food systems, bio-economy for sustainable food and agriculture, biodiversity and ecosystem services for food and agriculture and Achieving sustainable urban food systems.
Finally, to enable a better life for everyone, the organization seeks to promote inclusive economic growth by reducing inequalities (urban, rural areas, rich, poor countries, men, women).
Under this objective, the implementation program will prioritize on gender equality and empowerment of rural women, inclusive rural transformation, agriculture and food emergencies, resilient agri-food systems, and scaling up investment.
Moreover, to efficiently implement the strategies towards achieving these four betters, FAO will apply four cross-cutting accelerators in all its programmatic interventions to accelerate impact. The accelerators include technology, innovation, data, and complements (governance, human capital, and institutions).
According to FAO, emerging technologies are already changing the food and agricultural sector, yet most African governments or agri-food systems actors have yet to harness their powerful potential.
Helping farmers take full advantage of new technologies such as digital agriculture, biotechnologies, precision agriculture, innovations in agro ecology, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to increase food production whilst respecting the environment, is of paramount importance, FAO reveals.
Furthermore, innovation in agriculture is a central driving force for achieving a world free from hunger and malnutrition. Innovations, including social, policy, institutional, financial and technological innovations, which are science and evidence-based, are important drivers affecting food and agricultural production and distribution processes.
Moreover, the organization points out that statistical data on food, agriculture, socio-economics, and natural resources can come together to help strengthen evidence-based decision-making in the food and agriculture sectors.
According to FAO, this data can enable monitoring of agricultural water productivity, including agricultural systems at risk due to human pressure on land and water, ascertain aquatic species distribution, and analyze precipitation trends, allowing the design of targeted agricultural interventions and investment plans through a territorial approach which fosters equality, inclusion and sustainable food and nutrition security.