African nations move to eradicate hunger by 2015

By Daniel Cohanpour, 12 August 2013

After years of stagnated progress on food security, African heads of state, together with a variety of non-governmental organizations, farmers, and private sector workers, met in a united effort to eradicate hunger on the continent by 2025.

The June 30 High Level Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was sponsored by the African Union (AU), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the non-profit Lula Institute. The conference culminated in a declaration that will reaffirm two of Africa’s previous agricultural development initiatives: the 2003 Maputo Declaration and its original framework, the 2003 Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP).

The new framework is meant to harness “Africa’s great potential” through an increased focus on the continent’s growing youth population, available natural resources and agricultural capacity. The declaration, which will be discussed at the next AU Assembly, is different than previous hunger initiatives because of its inclusion of non-state actors as well as the specific focus on agricultural production. The declaration also marks the first time, since 2003, that African leaders have agreed upon a continental hunger deadline.

“What is new is the commitment of African governments and leaders to put an end to hunger,” Adama Coulibaly, Agricultural Economist with UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), tells MediaGlobal News. “The scope of transformative actions has to go beyond agriculture to work in an inclusive and holistic manner targeting those most in need.”

The deadline set forth was five years ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s “Zero Hunger” challenge 2030 deadline. Coulibaly explains that a few initiatives introduced by this framework include: reducing hunger by 40 percent in nations who agree upon this Renewed Partnership, reducing the need for food aid in the next decade, and doubling the production of staples within 5-10 years without sacrificing agricultural sustainability.

The framework reaffirmed both Maputo and the CAADP’s original allocation target of 10 percent of all national budgets to agricultural development projects. Research has shown that this ambitious target was the boost needed to meet Millennium Development Goals poverty reduction targets.

Coulibaly says that a larger number of African countries have adopted CAADP’s 10 percent budget allocation, yet, so far, only 10 out of 54 AU member states, including the Least Developed Countries of Niger, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, and Malawi, have reached this budget allocation.

“After 10 years of existence the heads of states have now come to the conclusion that the first commitments need to be refined,” Coulibaly tells MediaGlobal News.

Earlier this year the African Development Bank (AfDB), the AU, UN Development Program (UNDP), and UNECA released the annual MDG Report 2013, with a specific focus on assessing food security in Africa. Compared to other continents, Africa has made the least progress in terms of hunger reduction, with rates equaling about 17 percent. However, Africa’s ranking on the Global Hunger Index was about 5percent lower in 2012 than in 1990, indicating an improvement in food security. Additionally, there was an increase in average value of African food production. For example, Ethiopia has improved significantly, shifting its hunger level from 42.2 percent of the population to 28.7 percent in that same period of time.

One major problem that has led to severe agricultural underdevelopment is “the frequent droughts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, which sometimes lead to serious food shortages.”

The problem in general, says Wulf Killman, Former Chair of FAO’s Interdepartmental Working Group on Climate Change to MediaGlobal News, is that there is no one cause of food security.

“Climate change has to be seen in conjunction with other challenges, such as the widely spread unsustainable use of natural resources, population increase, and global economic distortions,” says Killman.

Regardless of these major setbacks, Ousmane Badiane, Africa Director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) explains that prospects are positive. “Africa has started to make good progress in reducing hunger,” Badiane tells UNEARTH News.

At the meeting, the AU declared 2014 as the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security.” From now on, every three years, countries that make progress and show ownership in terms of ending hunger by 2025 will receive recognition during the AU summit. Keeping in mind the substantial goals set forth by the High Level Meeting, UNECA’s Coulibaly feels it is “too early to assess the prospects of this declaration.” However, it’s encouraging, he says, that four LDCs–Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Niger–have already spearheaded the initiative.

According to CAADP’s program review in 2010, the biggest disappointment to the original initiative has been a lack of commitment at the national level. However, the renewed partnership created at the meeting, combined with its united deadline and national policy implications, puts the focus more on national capability.

“It is observed as well that African countries are more and more into the establishment of national programs,” says Coulibaly.

In Malawi, for example, new government fertilizer production programs and attempts at boosting private sector investment in agriculture have propelled its incorporation of CAADP. Additionally, the “Nutrition Security/Right to Food Framework Law” and “Agriculture Policy Investment Framework” (ASWAp) will ground national policies on hunger and increase accountability.

Ethiopia, has also led the LDC initiative on food security, and recently created the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), a targeted program which the Ethiopian government hopes will “assure food consumption.”

Further progress will require nations “to implement cost-effective and well-targeted social protection programs in favor of the currently large number of poor and vulnerable,” IFPRI’s Badiane tells MediaGlobal News.

Ultimately, this new framework aims to move the continent toward an “African Renaissance,” the idea being “that African people and nations shall overcome the current challenges confronting the continent and achieve cultural, scientific, and economic renewal,” Coulibaly tells MediaGlobal News. Its goal is to set forth a “new way” to tackle hunger, an issue that has “been on the table for too long.”

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