By Abdi Ali
Published February 4, 2018
Hunger-fighting initiatives in Africa must be deepened and broadened to put the continent back on track to eliminating the scourge of undernutrition.
“Achieving zero hunger in our lifetime is still possible,” Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, told heads of state and government gathered in Addis Ababa for the African Union (AU) summit on January 29, 2018.
To achieve the fete, Graziano da Silva said, calls for “a redoubling of current efforts and a push for political commitment and timely concrete actions such as never seen before.”
Graziano da Silva spoke during a meeting to review and renew the 2013 partnership – forged in Addis between the AU, FAO and the Istituto Lula – to end hunger and malnutrition.
Progress towards that goal is not on track, and last year’s FAO report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World reported that civil conflicts and adverse climate trends had led to an increase in the number of hungry people.
That reversal of decades of steady progress in hunger reduction was ‘extremely worrisome’, Graziano da Silva said.
“We are facing a new promising scenario that renews our optimism,” he said, noting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ robust insistence on fostering peace, the first disbursements of the new Green Climate Fund set up to help countries most affected by climate change, and signs of an improving global economy.
At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees agreed on a joint communiqué that includes an 11-point action plan for AU Member States to renew their commitment to ending hunger in Africa by 2025. It includes investing in sustainable agriculture and social protection programmes.
Investment in agriculture development is “the single most effective way to provide opportunities for families to generate income and improve nutrition in Africa,” Graziano da Silva said.
Strengthening social protection programmes, especially in rural areas where most of the poor live and where formal social security systems are typically absent, is especially crucial, he said, emphasising that such programmes can be linked with other productive investments to create “virtuous cycles of local development” that benefit the most vulnerable community members. Public food purchasing from family farmers is an example that has worked in many parts of the world, he noted.
The high-level meeting of 2013, organised by the AU Commission, FAO and the Lula Institute set up by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, led to the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. The commitment to end hunger and malnutrition by 2025 was a key component of that declaration.