Agriculture must become the engine for growth needed by Africa to eradicate hunger and boost sustainable food production, as stated at an event on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa by José Graziano da Silva, director general, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Stating that more than one out of every five Africans was still denied the right to food, he called on the region to step up its efforts, because it had the power to change the situation. He noted that a majority of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies were those of African nations.
”The challenge for Africa was to make economic growth more inclusive by targeting agricultural and rural development, women and young people,” da Silva said. About 75 per cent of Africans are 25 years old or younger, and the population is expected to remain largely rural for the next 35 years, with women heading many households.
“Agriculture is the only sector of the economy which is capable of absorbing this workforce,” the director general stated, adding that there was no inclusive and sustainable way forward for the world’s second-largest continent without women, youth and agriculture.
African Year of Agri & Food Security
Governments would have the opportunity to renew their support for agricultural development in 2014, which would be observed as the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security, which would be launched during the African Union Summit, slated to take place in the Ethiopian capital this week.
“The launch of the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security is a step towards a hunger-free and sustainable Africa that Nelson Mandela and many others dreamed of and fought for,” da Silva said, adding that it would build on the efforts of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), launched in 2003.
The African Year of Agriculture and Food Security is being observed parallel to the United Nations’ International Year of Family Farming. “For many years, and in many parts of the world, small-scale farmers, pastoralist families and fisherfolk were viewed as a part of the problem of hunger,” FAO’s director general said.
“That could not be further from the truth. Family farmers are already the main food producers in most countries, and they can do even more with the right kind of support,” he added. Improving access to financial services, training, mechanization and technology could transform subsistence farmers into efficient producers.
”Through methods that increase production and, at the same time, preserve natural resources, family farming would provide a sustainable alternative to input-intensive technologies that have resulted in damage to soil quality, land, water and biodiversity,” da Silva added.
2025 Zero Hunger target
Da Silva praised what he described as “the commitment, at the highest level, of an entire continent” to end hunger in Africa by 2025. The African Union Summit is due to adopt the target this week, in line with the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by United Nations’ secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in 2012.