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AU Chair Discusses Proposed Food Security Compact Ahead Of World Economic Forum On Africa

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika “said he planned to work with other African leaders to devise a programme on food security that was sustainable ‘regardless of who is looking at it,’ and set up what he called an African compact on food security to act as an independent advisory body to the African Union (AU) on agriculture and food issues,” the Guardian’s “Katine” blog reports.

Mutharika, who is the chairman of the AU, was speaking ahead of the World Economic Forum on Africa, which is scheduled to start on Wednesday in Tanzania. About “1,000 leaders from 85 countries are expected to gather in [the capital of] Dar Es Salaam tomorrow for the three-day World Economic Forum on Africa, which will include a discussion on how stakeholders can work together to drive sustainable growth in agriculture and capture the region’s agricultural potential,” according to the “Katine” blog (Ford, 5/4).

South African President Jacob Zuma and Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organization, are some of the officials expected to attend the forum, which runs through May 7, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reports. The article notes that agricultural loans are an “area of growth on the continent, where farming employs 65 percent of the labor force and accounts for 32 percent of gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.”

Bloomberg/BusinessWeek also addresses a session, scheduled for May 6, that will focus on dealing with corruption. “The World Economic Forum says corruption is ‘conservatively estimated’ to cost Africa more than $148 billion a year, increasing the cost of goods as much as 20 percent,” Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes (Seria/Bonorchis, 5/3).

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said, “It is heartening to see the positive effect that the World Economic Forum has on key issues of global concern. This unique gathering regularly convenes a very diverse group of friends of the continent who are united in their optimism about what Africa can, must and will achieve,” ThisDay reports in an article focusing on the lead up to the forum (5/4).

The “Katine” blog examines an interview Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network and chair of the Farming First coalition, conducted with Mutharika about his food security efforts for Africa. “I’ll invite about eight, nine heads of states that are committed to this [food security] programme, and I’ll invite international organisations, the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union … and some of the countries in the G8, and say here’s a programme, here’s what we want to do, and sustain this within the context of the African green revolution,” Mutharika told Sibanda.

Mutharika also discussed with Sibanda potential agricultural strategies aimed at addressing food security and poverty: “In many African countries we are being fed by very small, small farmers …. then the question was how do we get these farmers to produce beyond subsistence and what are the challenges?”

The article notes Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme, which provided farmers with “seeds, fertiliser and advice on sowing techniques,” the blog writes. “Within two years the country went from being reliant on food aid to becoming a net exporter of maize. Although not without its critics, the programme won praise from the international community,” according to the Guardian.

Muthaika’s comments also come as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has released a paper (.pdf) on food security and climate change. The report “urges African governments to ‘prioritise and implement measures’ to develop agriculture and sustainable resource management,” according to the “Katine” blog (Ford, 5/4). “One-third of the African population lives in drought-prone areas. Six of the ten largest cities in Africa are located on the coast. These are both areas susceptible to climate change,” an FAO press release writes (5/4).

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