ECA, UN agencies commit to fighting food insecurity in Africa

Addis Ababa – Economic Commission for Africa’s executive secretary Vera Songwe on Monday met with the principals of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and agreed to work closely with them in a number of areas, including statistics as they seek to address food insecurities on the African continent.

The four leaders agreed to strengthen their relationship so they can effectively deal with food security issues on the continent, with more focus and emphasis being put on areas like statistics, policy development and land with a view to improving agricultural productivity.

The meeting is an acknowledgment that the three United Nations Rome-based agencies offer a vast range of knowledge, financial and technical expertise on issues related to food security, agriculture and nutrition while the ECA on the other hand also has a comparative advantage of a broad knowledge base in discharging its mandate of promoting the economic and social development of its member States, fostering intra-regional integration and international cooperation for Africa’s development.

Songwe assured that the ECA was ready to deepen its collaboration with the three organisations, adding that the fact that the leaders of the Rome-based UN agencies were in Ethiopia at the same time was a strong indication of how important the issue of food security on the continent was to them.

“Under one roof we have combined knowledge on climate change, food security, and conflict. These issues are relevant for the challenges we face such as migration and must be tackled in a comprehensive way,” she said.

“We have been collaborating already with the three agencies and there’s a lot that can be done if we pull our resources together.”

Songwe also said the ECA was ready to contribute to the partnership on the policy side and training in particular as the organisations work together in their quest to achieve zero hunger on the continent.

She also emphasized the need for data and statistics to help guide agriculture and land policy, adding this was crucial for the gender agenda and to crowd in private investment.

“This is a great example of how we can work together and move forward as one UN with one goal as we talk about peace, security, development and the sustainable development goals,” she added.

Challenges

For his part WFP executive director, David Beasley, said achieving food security was of utmost importance to Africa.

“Africa has got a lot of problems, but there are also a lot of successes,” he said, citing Ethiopia as a country with both great successes and great challenges.

He said it was sad that over 10 million people on the continent face hunger on a daily basis in Africa.

“If we are going to see zero hunger by 2030, which will not happen – it’s an absolute impossibility with wars and man-made conflicts – because 80 percent of our funding now is in war zones and that distracts funding from sustainable development,” said Mr. Beasley.

“But if we can end these conflicts and with the expertise of the men and women in this room, then we can achieve zero hunger. If we achieve food security, we have less conflicts and migration.

“We believe that you are committed to addressing the root cause of food insecurity in Africa so we want to partner with you and do everything we can; we know you are interested in the same issues as we are, so let’s do more together,” he said.

Action

IFAD’s president Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, a former Togolese Prime Minister, said he was excited the leadership of the Rome-based agencies were meeting with Songwe and her team, adding it was an opportunity for them to discuss and come up with ways to address food insecurity and conflict issues on the continent. He underscored the importance of the land issues in the ongoing work to address food insecurity in Africa.

Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the FAO, said he was increasingly concerned by the link between conflict, climate change and food security on the continent, adding there was need for impetus in the way the four organizations are working together to address these issues.

“Our complimentary roles are in food distribution, building resilience and investments for the future,” he said of the three Rome-based agencies.

“What we see the need in working more with you is capacity building and training; providing opportunities for jobs for youth, women, but also updating new technologies, capacity building and training for local governance and statistics. We believe that this can be a further area of strong cooperation with UNECA.”

At the conclusion of the visit, the three agencies and ECA agreed to work together on a few countries to demonstrate early wins. The teams will work on a selection of countries able to pilot the approach.

The ECA and FAO bilaterally took stock of issues requiring immediate follow up, including agreement for ECA to host a high-level meeting in the near future with part of the focus being on food security.  

Songwe was supported in the meeting by deputy executive secretary and chief economist, Abdalla Hamdok, who emphasized the need for the four organizations to, among others, continue their focus on statistics, the role of agriculture in supporting Africa’s transformation and land related issues.

Also present at the meeting were Chief of Staff, Collen V. Kelapile and directors Oliver Chinganya, Stephen Karingi, Thokozile Ruzvidzo and Ingrid Cyimana of the African Center of Statistics, Regional Integration and Trade Division, Social Development Policy Division, and Strategic Planning and Operational Quality Division, respectively. – ECA.

September 2017
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