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Unlocking Africa’s Agriculture potential despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Kenya will host the Agriculture Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit in September.

The summit will be critical for Africa’s agriculture and as a defining moment to highlight and unlock many of the political, policy, and financial commitments and innovations the continent has achieved and that are needed to advance.

Speaking during the launch of the AGRF meeting in Nairobi , Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya said that for Africa to feed herself sustainably there is need to enhance inter and intra-regional trade by embracing Africa continent free trade agreement through lowering trade barriers, harmonizing   regional policies and ensuring   regulatory environments are friendly.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Agriculture Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Ann Nyagah, Munya noted that including women participation in food systems is vital hence the need to address issues of land access, finance and education by breaking cultural barriers and norms that discriminate against women.

“Harnessing agricultural technology and innovation is equally critical as it will allow us to plan better for the sector and respond to the impact of climate change and other stresses in our food system,” he said.

Munya explained that technology will also help boost agriculture productivity, for food production, expand agro- processing potential, deploy extension advisory services and streamline value chain activities

He emphasized that youth engagement is critical to sustain the continent’s food systems noting that Africa is the world’s youngest continent with 60 percent being young people who are slightly more than 20 years.

“Our young people must take charge of their future by feeding themselves with nutritious and safe diet that will not only promote the health of people but also boost economic wealth,” Munya added.

He noted that the upcoming AGRF 2021 should draw concrete commitment to unlock the potential of young leaders, mobilizing commitment towards the 2030 sustainable goals especially zero hunger and Malabo Goals that are in line with Africa’s agenda 2063.

“As the host, Kenya will champion the AGRF and I want to call upon leaders and also partners to join us in September to articulate a vision for African agriculture and now more than ever it is critical to   shape an African vision,” Munya said.

The CS noted that food systems will be able to steer the continent towards zero hunger and this will require transformational shift for the continent for which significant importation of food from outside Africa is projected to soar to USD 110 billion by 2025.

“The continent must therefore feed itself and this requires building food systems that are sustainable and create shared prosperity for Africa. Food systems must therefore be resilient,” the CS said.

Munya noted that the Covid-19 pandemic is persistent and underscored the urgency for transformation of food systems adding that Kenya had set in place its food systems transformation prior to Covid-19 but the pandemic has awakened it in relativity for food systems.

Kiambu Governor James Nyoro who was representing Council of Governors (CoG) said that even without Covid-19, Africa remains a net importer of food thereby exporting wealth and importing poverty.

Evidence, he noted shows that production of major food commodities has been stagnating if not declining against a backdrop of rapidly increasing population.

Agriculture CAS Ann Nyaga together with Agriculture stakeholders helps to cut the ribbon during the launch of the AGRF 2021 Summit. Photographs by Douglas Namunane

Nyoro who is also the Agriculture Chairman at CoG however acknowledged that there have been some successes in the sector but the question remains how to scale up the successes and replicate them in the 47 counties.

The Governor said devastating effects of climate change such us fall army worms and desert locusts cannot be ignored and added that there is need to look for the smart technologies, considering teething problems that are facing our economy and agriculture especially during this Covid-19 devastating times.

“The CoG is committed to work with national government and AGRF during the upcoming meeting that Kenya will be hosting in order for the forum to be a success,” Nyoro said noting that development and investment in the agriculture sector is done through 47 devolved units thus it’s important for all to discuss and participate in AGRF summit. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said the African continent is built on agriculture with 70 percent of its people being farmers and 60 percent of women living on agriculture and yet not making enough out of it.

“Every time we invest 10 percent, we impact our GDP which is around 6 percent and we reduce poverty by 7 percent,” she said noting that this shows there are huge opportunities in the agriculture sector.

AGRF, Kalibata added, will therefore be an opportunity to bring all factors back home, for governments to put evidence on the table and drive for the change we all want together.

“We will need to have a conversation with the private sector, trying to understand why they are not investing and how we would like them to invest.  We should try to understand how we can support them to be able to do a good job because at the end of the day agriculture is the business and it is not just for subsistence,” Kalibata said.

Kenya hosting the AGRF 2021 summit that convenes players in the agricultural sector to share lessons and make commitments to moving African agriculture forward is scheduled for September 7 to 10 and will have 500 in-person participants. Another 10,000 participants will join virtually from more than 150 countries

The main focus will be on the bold actions needed for agriculture to fuel the continent’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and continued food systems transformation.

By Wangari Ndirangu

 

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