Zim hosts UN meeting on agric development

By Sifelani Tsiko in Victoria Falls

The United Nations Economic and Social Council is holding a meeting here this week in Zimbabwe’s premier resort spot to find ways of strengthening innovations and investment in agriculture and agro-industries across all countries.

Zimbabwe was chosen to lead the 54-nation UN Economic and Social Council, commonly referred to as ECOSOC, at the 71st Session of the General Assembly last September.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the UN, Frederick Shava, now heads the UN Economic and Social Council after taking over from Oh Joon, an ambassador of South Korea.

The expert group meeting on agriculture and agro-industry is being organised by the government in collaboration with FAO, supported by UNIDO, UNDP and the UN Country Team.

Relevant institutional stakeholders such as UNECA, OHRLLS, OSAA, UNCTAD, WIPO, UNDESA, the AU/NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and the African Development Bank  – the key partners — are also participating.

The expert group meeting aims to maximise the participation of top policy and technical experts on agriculture and agro-industry from all countries, particularly African and the countries in special situations, as well as relevant representatives from non-state actors.

“Interactivity is key, participants will engage with one another in an open and dynamic multi-stakeholder format, geared toward knowledge sharing and mutual learning,” read part of the ECOSOC statement.

Recommendations and conclusions will inform the ECOSOC Special Meeting in May 2017, to be held at UN Headquarters.  The expert group meeting on agriculture and agro-industry here in Victoria Falls is the second preparatory meeting focusing specifically on agriculture and agro-industry.

The first preparatory regional meeting on Infrastructure and Industrialisation in developing countries was held in Dakar, Senegal, in March this year.

ECOSOC says industry, innovation and infrastructure (Sustainable Development Goal 9) is relevant to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Sustainable Development Goal 9 focuses on building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovations. ECOSOC says resilient infrastructure and sustainable industrialization are key enablers of poverty eradication and can promote inclusion, connectivity and equality within societies.

However, the UN council says it can be complex and expensive to develop, especially in countries in Africa and countries in special situations.

“The Special Meeting will aim to bring the challenges involved to the attention of national, regional and international actors, and to forge solutions to bridge the gaps in infrastructure and industrialization across countries,” the council said.

“Agriculture and agro-industries are indispensable parts of any food system and they should encourage inclusive growth and sustainable development, rather than narrowly promoting efficiency and productivity along the food and value chain.

“Supported by innovative approaches, agriculture, agro-industry and value chains have significant potential to contribute to green industrialization and sustainable development across all countries, especially in Africa and the countries in special situations.”

Agricultural experts say that, despite the decline of agriculture as a share of GDP in most African economies in recent years, it remains a major source of income and employment for many.

They say strengthening innovations and investments in agriculture and agro-industry—including through support to agricultural producers throughout the life-cycle—can contribute to higher productivity and sustainability by supporting sustainable food systems and linkages to value chains. This they further say encourages growth, job creation, enhances equality, including gender equality, as well as improving food security and promoting sustainable use of natural resources.

Sustainable urbanisation, with attention to urban-rural linkages, also plays a complementary and vital role in promoting agriculture and rural development, ECOSOC said.

The ECOSOC initiative is supported by a range of UN entities including FAO, OHRLLS, OSAA, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNECA, UNHABITAT, UNIDO and WIPO, and engaging other organizations such as the African Development Bank, the Africa Union, NEPAD and representatives from academia, civil society and the private sector.

Some of the major objectives of the expert group meeting include:

-To highlight the potential of agriculture and agro-industry and the related regional and global food and value chains, as pathways to developing sustainable food systems and industrialization, including the achievement of SDG-2, SDG-9 and other inter-related SDGs, paragraph 13 of the AAAA (Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development) as well as the goals of other related frameworks;

-To address the necessary enabling environment, resources, partnerships, evidence base and productive capacity requirements to support innovations in the development of agriculture and agro-industry, particularly in Africa and countries in special situations, including by promoting public-private partnerships that support family farming and value-addition;

To identify how ECOSOC and the UN development system, with other partners, can work effectively to support inclusive, sustainable and resilient agriculture and agro-industry development, hence the generation of productive employment for youth and women (which is linked to SDG-8 on decent work and economy growth);

-To review existing innovations, initiatives and lessons learnt, especially from CAADP, and successful examples from other countries and propose strategies for upscaling and expanding areas of coverage.

“The Africa Agenda 2063 calls on African countries to transform, grow and industralise their economies and modernize agriculture and agro-business through value addition and productivity increase,” Shava remarked last year when he assumed the presidency of ECOSOC.

“Part of the two Special Meetings of ECOSOC are to come up with viable infrastructure financing proposals.”

Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Obert Mpofu is expected to give a keynote address at this meeting which runs from April 24 -26. -Zimpapers Syndication

May 2017
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