Food and nutrition security: inclusive partnerships – Editorial

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    The role of agriculture is key for sustainable development, well-being and structural transformation. But it cannot be addressed in isolation: a more holistic approach is needed. Improving food and nutrition security worldwide, and in particular transforming agriculture in Africa, requires not only more effective and consistent policies and investments, but also the scaling up of inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships, within as well as across sectors and thematic areas. This is one of the key messages that emerged over 2014 which was the International Year of Family Farming, the African Union Year of Food Security and also saw the second only International Conference on Nutrition  organised by the FAO and WHO, as well as the launch of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture at the UN Climate Summit.

        In Africa, the continent worst affected by food and nutrition insecurity, the Malabo Declaration, adopted in June 2014 by the African Heads of State and Government, similarly charters the way forward for a new decade of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the major policy process in Africa for food security and sustainable agriculture. The Declaration goes beyond agricultural production and productivity, and seeks to promote a more inclusive and holistic approach. It introduces a new set of concrete goals to be reached by 2025, including on regional agricultural trade and the involvement of non-state actors, given that national markets and governments are insufficient to bring about all the needed transformations for African agriculture.

        The international community, including ECDPM, focuses on these dynamics which are unfolding within a continuously evolving global context. Growing attention in particular is being devoted to the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, climate change, structural transformation and regional integration, as well as the role of smallholder farmers and other stakeholders in achieving food and nutrition security. Producing more is important, but not enough: food systems should become healthier, in the northern and southern hemispheres alike. They should become more sustainable, resilient and be better connected and integrated, including at the regional level (so important in Africa) and across sectors and thematic areas. Climate-smart agriculture is also emerging as a possible game-changer, potentially contributing to both global food security and the fight against climate change. Another driver of global debates is the role of small-scale farmers as they produce over 70% of the world’s food needs, but their importance is not fully recognised by all.

        In this context, public-private partnerships (PPPs) - a very fashionable buzzword – can play a critical role. But turning PPPs into an effective operational approach to food and nutrition security is another story. There is still a lot of mistrust between public and private actors and PPPs successfully involving both local and foreign, as well as small and large private operators, are not easily developed and implemented. In Africa, tensions are increasing between African smallholders - who believe producing organic food via multi-cropping is the solution for better food and nutrition security - and foreign companies - who tend to believe only large-scale mono-cropping can produce enough food, with fortification providing the supplements for improving nutrition. Also questionable is whether most PPPs are commercially sustainable, with most examples of PPPs being pilots, strongly motivated by corporate social responsibility, and whether these models can be upscaled to serve base-of-the-pyramid consumers in a profitable and sustainable way. Finally, there are growing concerns about the risk that donors’ initiatives to involve investors from their own countries in African agriculture PPPs are used as self-interested economic diplomacy at the expense of sustainable development objectives.

       This special issue of GREAT insights covers partnerships for food and nutrition security through those three lenses (and three parts): latest developments in Africa and within CAADP, the evolving global context, and the role of the private sector in ensuring such partnerships are really inclusive.

    Dr San Bilal (Editor), Head of Economic Transformation and Trade Programme, ECDPM

    Francesco Rampa (Guest editor), Head of Food Security Programme, ECDPM

    Follow us on Twitter: @SanBilal1 - @F_Rampa

    This article was published in GREAT insights Volume 4, Issue 2 (February/March 2015).

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