Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - 31 October 2011 – Africa has the potential to feed itself, but after more than 50 years of independence, the continent still suffers from widespread malnutrition while spending millions of US dollars annually to import food from the global market. However, programmes such as CAADP and the ‘African Food Basket Initiative’ are attempting to change this situation. This was the general message at the first anniversary of the African Food and Nutrition Security Day (AFNSD) celebrations held at the Hilton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on October 31.
Participants at the AFNSD argued that unlike Asia, has immense land and water resources that could be utilized to boost food production. Still, 240 million people on the continent are undernourished (consume less than the required recommended 2100 kcal/day) and 5 million children die of malnutrition every year. This is equivalent to a child dying every 6 seconds. Malnutrition is the leading cause of death (35% of child deaths per year). In addition, over 50 million African children suffer from chronic malnutrition which translates to about 40-60% of these children being stunted (low height for age). Over 40% of pregnant women are malnourished.
The Agriculture Ministry of Ethiopia, representatives of the Government of Malawi, representatives from the European Union (EU), the Africa Rice Center, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), United Nations (UN) Agencies, the African Union Commission, the NEPAD Agency and representatives of the Member States of the AU commemorated the 2nd annual Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to Mr. Jean Ping, the AUC Chairperson, “intra-African trade could thus be the true motor to release the developmental energy of agriculture in order to enhance food and nutrition security”.
Mr. Ping commended the work that the AU in following up on the challenge thrown at the continent in which no child should go to bed hungry within five years. The Commission, he stated, moved swiftly to set up a high level task group on how to realise the vision for a food secure Africa within five years.
The Commission also embraced the values of the “African Food Basket Initiative” also under auspices of President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi and has worked on ways and means of mainstreaming these elements into the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
“The key recommendations from today’s discussions shall feed into the other items tabled for discussions at the 18th Summit of the AU for consideration by AU Member States”, said Mrs. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime – the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture.
The Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi to Ethiopia, Dr. Isaac G. Munlo, emphasised that this year’s theme, “Investing in Intra- African Trade for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa” embraces a high impact intervention area likely to enhance the transformation of African agriculture. “Trade among African countries has the potential to strengthen sectoral and regional complementarities, to promote innovations in value addition and it can contribute to the effective movement of food from surplus to deficit area,” he added.
“It is unacceptable to have food surpluses in one side of the continent while the other side faces famine and starvation because of closed border laws and requlations put in place by us (Africans),” reiterated Goodwill Ambassador Haile Gebreslassie of Ethiopia, in his keynote address. “Despite the role that all of us play, AU and NEPAD are going to be increasingly important in helping build consensus as well as mobilizing resources to scale up successes,” he emphasized.
Prof. Aggrey Ambali, speaking on behalf of Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency highlighted that as NEPAD celebrates 10 years in 2011, there is visible progress on Africa’s development agenda. For instance, to date, close to 30 African countries have completed their CAADP round table processes and reviewed their country investment plans. About one third of the Member States are on track towards achieving MDG1 of reducing poverty and halving hunger by 2015, he revealed.
Editor’s take note:
The theme for this year’s Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day is is “Investing in intra-African trade for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa”.
The Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day was adopted during the 15th AU Summit in Kampala, Uganda and the first commemoration was held in Malawi in October 2010. This year’s theme calls for:
- An increase in the volume of high value and nutritious foods
- Enhancing of national and regional markets and cross-border trade
- Enhancing of regional and local emergency response and capacity to deal with crises
- Stepping up of efforts to prioritise harmonisation of SPS frameworks
In addressing the challenges faced by Africa on Food and Nutrition Security, some of the recommendations made at the commemoration are:
- To increase budget allocations dedicated to core nutrition interventions within the Agriculture Investment Plans and other key sector plans (Health, Education, Trade and Social protection);
- To have short term contingency plans as well as long term planning in order to prevent and mitigate crisis such as the one in the “Horn of Africa”;
- To improve infrastructure (road, rail, water, air, storage, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards to regulate food safety) to better serve the objectives of improving the movement, delivery of agriculture food and nutrition commodities and services within nations states and across borders;
- To support small scale farmers to optimise their productivity through farm inputs such as quality seeds, fertilizer and appropriate technologies.