Report Notes Potential For African Agriculture, European Partnerships

A new report (.pdf) highlights concerns about donors, especially from Europe, following through on funding pledges for the G8’s $22 billion global food security fund, Business Daily reports (Odhiambo, 10/27).

“The analysis from the [African and European development experts on the] Montpellier Panel, convened with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, notes that the commitment at a 2009 G8 summit to dramatically escalate the fight against malnutrition in Africa has yet to bring critically needed support for a ‘rich diversity’ of activities already underway that ‘could achieve food and nutrition security through agricultural development,'” according to an Imperial College London press release.  

“If we do not bridge the gap there is risk that new investments will dissipate into more small scale activity and we will not see transformational change that is needed,” the report cautions. “The panel is particularly concerned that European donors have not used their influence and abilities to create a safety net,” the press release notes (10/26). The report also highlighted the opportunity for partnership: “For the first time in two generations, Africa has a real opportunity to achieve food and nutrition security through agricultural development.” It adds that Europe should “play a unique and significant role, as a partner with African nations, in attaining this goal,” according to the report’s executive summary (.pdf) (10/26).

“The panel said a system of grain reserves, for example, could prevent another round of price shocks to commodities markets from spreading malnutrition to millions more Africans, as they did in 2007 and 2008,” Business Daily writes (10/27). This grain reserve system is an example of the public support that is required to prevent major price rises and address malnutrition in Africa, the report said, according to Reuters (10/26). According to the report, “[s]ome 337 million Africans consume less than 2,100 calories a day, and 200 million are chronically malnourished. An astounding 50 percent of children are stunted and in Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly half of all pregnant women in the region and 40 percent of women of child-bearing age suffer from anemia,” the press release notes (10/26).

The panel also “lauded action by the 22 African governments including Kenya that have signed the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, or CAADP, which commits signatories to investing 10 percent of national budgets toward improved food production,” Business Daily writes (10/27). The release points out that GDP is “rising in 27 of Africa’s 30 largest countries” and notes that already Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi and Senegal have reached or passed the 10 percent threshold for agricultural investment (10/26).

“Today, European aid to Africa can be especially productive because it can support emerging strategies already owned, operated and driven by Africans, which is a relatively novel situation in the history of European-African relations,” Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, head of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, said, according to Business Daily (10/27).

FAO Report Calls For Preservation Of Biodiversity To Ensure Food Security

“The genetic diversity of many plants used for food could be lost forever unless nations, especially those in the developing world, invest in ways to conserve and utilise them, a United Nations report warned Tuesday,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C reports (10/26).

In the report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “warns that the loss of biodiversity will have a major impact on the ability of humankind to feed itself in the future, with inhabitants of poorest regions of the world experiencing more shortages,” the U.N. News Centre writes. Some crop varieties contain genetic information that is essential for the development of new high-yielding varieties that could handle the effects of climate change, such as drought (10/26). “There are thousands of crop wild relatives that still need to be collected, studied and documented because they hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity, floods and pests,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said, Reuters reports (10/26).

The report “calls for action, especially generating farmers’ interest, and building capacities to conserve and use the genetic biodiversity that still exists,” the U.N. News Centre writes. “FAO estimates that 75 percent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. A recent study predicts that as much as 22 percent of the wild relatives of important food crops of peanut, potato and beans will disappear by 2055 because of a changing climate” (10/26).

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