Investing in agricultural transformation to achieve sustainable food systems

ECDPM’s Francesco Rampa interviewed H. E. Mrs. Josefa Sacko about the critical challenges and tremendous opportunities African agriculture faces, linking development to nutrition, food security and broader climate issues.

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    Francesco Rampa: Sustainable food systems face a number of critical challenges in Africa, including land tenure issues, intellectual property laws on seeds, vested interests in certain policy reform that are detrimental to the environment. What is the AU doing to achieve sustainable and inclusive food systems (enabling nutrition, health, environmental, social and economic goals to be delivered more coherently)? What are the key policy frameworks and programmes in place? Any concrete examples?

    H.E. Josefa Sacko: In most African countries, agriculture contributes on average 30% to GDP and up to 70% to overall employment. In view of the dominant role of agriculture in African economies and its huge untapped potential, investment in agricultural transformation would provide the best opportunity for achieving sustainable food systems. It would also help to push the continent toward sustained economic transformation, enhanced food security, poverty reduction and integration into the global economy. However, agricultural transformation and related benefits to catalyse sustainable and inclusive food systems have not yet happened; this is due to persistent constraints, such as low investment at farm level and insufficient linkages of the farmers to agro-industries, agri-chains and markets in general. Transforming African agriculture requires strategies that address the key challenges to agricultural development in a more holistic approach. It also requires innovative programmes to strengthen the links between agriculture, infrastructure and finance and to promote agricultural value chains and markets at national and regional levels.

    Recognising the contribution of agriculture as the backbone of Africa’s economies and the continued decline of the sector’s growth creates the urgent need to foster its development.

    It is in that context that in 2003, at the African Union (AU) Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, Africa’s Heads of State and Governments committed to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). CAADP represents a political development framework for national and regional agricultural sector reform which shall contribute to achieving better strategic planning, more coherent agricultural policies, increased productivity and more effective allocation of investments. The main goal of CAADP is to help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth which eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity and enables expansion of exports in a sustainable way.

    To underline the commitment to agricultural development, the African Heads of States pledged to allocate at least 10% of their national budgets for 2008 and work to achieve at least 6% per annum growth rate in the agricultural sector.

    At AU Member States levels, countries have taken various steps in allocating the required resources to the agricultural sectors as well as developing National Agricultural Investment Plans. The NAIPs help countries to undertake their agricultural planning and investment to achieve the 6% annual growth rate in the agricultural sector. Some countries have gone further and have developed the second generation of their NAIPs. These plans ensure that countries are enabled to report on their annual growth targets. The various NAIPS are aligned to the Regional Investment Plans to ensure that the continent is moving in an integrated manner with a unified framework.

    To what extent has CAADP been able to support sustainable agriculture and food systems in Africa from an environmental sustainability point of view? More concisely, is CAADP aligned with NEPAD, African Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, and which incentives are provided to achieve environmental sustainability goals?

    Africa’s development is inextricably linked to its environment. Therefore, failing to properly address environmental sustainability will certainly jeopardise the continent’s hard-won development achievements and its aspiration for further growth, elimination of hunger and poverty reduction. It is because of this fact that during the tenth anniversary of CAADP in 2014, the AU Heads of State and Government not only adopted the Malabo Declaration on Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, but also endorsed the NEPAD Programme on Climate Smart Agriculture with its components on an African Climate Smart Agriculture Coordination Platform through which NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) will collaborate with partners including Regional Economic Communities and Non-Governmental Organisations targeting 25 million farm households by 2025.

    Furthermore, the Malabo Declaration calls for enhancing the resilience of agricultural production systems and livelihoods. Since then, the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) approach has won the attention of many African countries in their attempt to effectively deal with the challenges related to environmental sustainability, adaptation to climate change, building resilience and at the same time addressing mitigation as co-benefits. Thus the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) of the African Union and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) have increased their technical and coordination support to African countries in mainstreaming climate change into CAADP national investment plans and to build resilience and adaptive capacity in responding to the impacts of climate change and variability. The support is also extended to designing climate smart agriculture (CSA) investment projects for possible funding by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In doing so, we ensure that the CSA investment proposals are not only well aligned to the Malabo commitments on African agricultural transformation but also responsive to the environmental sustainability criteria of the Global Climate Facility.

    African agricultural development is crucial for income generation, but it’s also crucial for achieving food and nutrition security in Africa. What have been the AU’s main achievements and challenges in making agriculture, food security and trade policies more nutrition sensitive?

    The AU recognised the importance of integrating policies for improving nutrition into its agricultural development flagship programme – CAADP – by embracing the Framework for Africa’s Food Security (FAFS) in 2009. It was acknowledged that malnutrition and poor health pose major impediments to the agricultural sector and development in general, considering that the sector employs close to two-thirds of the continent’s rural population. The FAFS integrates approaches for eliminating malnutrition in a holistic manner and involving all four dimensions of food and nutrition security: availability, access, sustainability and utilisation. Most importantly, the framework outlines and describes options for developing the agricultural sector through a food system-based and value chain approach from productivity to consumption. This Framework specifically recommends inclusion into the CAADP-informed National Agricultural Investment Plans of activities for diversifying and cultivating food crops and animal industry that culminate in consumption of nutrition-dense diets, especially in rural and vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women.

    In the earlier half of this decade, the AU called for doubling of efforts to reduce stunting from its current alarming levels (40% on average) to 10% and underweight to 5%; the goal was to end hunger in Africa by 2025. With the same objective in mind, the AU Commission and the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, in its 4-year Business and Operational Plan for 2017-2021, formulated a number of activities under six strategic action areas, namely: expanding access and usage of inputs and mechanisation; enhancing post-harvest management; expanding food bio-fortification and food systems; improving social protection and safety nets in rural farming communities; improving food systems and nutrition knowledge management; and expanding home-grown school feeding. The AU Commission has so far taken concrete steps toward implementing activities under these strategic action areas, working in partnership with technical and global partners in combating malnutrition and ending hunger.

    The Green Climate Fund (GCF), seems promising for sustainable agricultural development and food security, but agriculture is not the specific focus of the Paris Agreement nor earmarked under the GCF. Would you use these types of funds to adapt agriculture in Africa (also given that agriculture is one of the priority adaptation areas, as stated in most of the African NDCs)?

    We recognise the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as a landmark achievement in which both developed and developing countries have committed themselves to a climate-resilient and low-emission future. But it has been the concern of most African countries that the Paris Agreement fails to give the agricultural sector the place it deserves in such a historic agreement, even though it explicitly recognises in its preamble the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerability of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.

    However, alongside the intensive consultations for having a Conference of the Parties (COP) decision on agriculture, African countries have an opportunity to implement climate change-related activities in the agricultural sector through the implementation of their respective Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As we are all aware, the building blocks of the Paris Agreement are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by Parties to the UNFCCC prior to the Paris Agreement. An overwhelming majority of the African INDCs have included agriculture in their adaptation and mitigation responses. The implementation of the Paris Agreement and the safeguarding of the food production systems in Africa through their NDCs require climate-resilient and transformative interventions in the agricultural sector.

    Accordingly, the DREA of the African Union Commission and the NPCA are providing strategic guidance to African countries on how to respond to climate change and pursue sustainable development through the implementation of the Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, commonly known as the Malabo Declaration. Some of this support includes preparation of bankable proposals to the Global Climate Finance, particularly to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), solicit Accredited Entries of the GCF to support African countries in bringing forward the Funding Proposals, preparation of the Implementation Strategy for NDCs, identifying best practices in adaptation and mitigation policy measures, and facilitating synergy among various interventions including National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) country programming.

    Even though GCF has not earmarked agriculture specifically for special funding, its guiding principle of 50% adaptation and 50% mitigation for funding projects is an opportunity for African agriculture to benefit better from GCF as compared to the previous Global Climate Funding facilities. Thus African countries have to generate sound climate-resilient and low-emission proposals in agriculture to capitalise on the opportunity created. In this respect, DREA is planning to convene a multi-stakeholder consultation in October 2017 with the aim of reviewing progress made since the Paris Agreement and identify specific areas of support required by African countries to successfully implement their NDCs.

    Looking forward: What is your vision for the next ten years of moving towards sustainable food systems in Africa, taking into account the various challenges of demography, rural-urban dynamics, industrialisation, sustainable natural resources management, climate change and stimulating investment flows to the continent? How to promote a more coherent approach?

    Building on the tremendous progress that was made after ten years of the CAADP implementation, the African Governments realise the need to continue to embrace the CAADP framework but change the way business in the agricultural sector is conducted. Hence the continent resolved to take a more integrated, inclusive approach toward achieving the broader CAADP goals and recommitted themselves in 2014 to the renewed Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation (3AGT) agenda for attaining sustainable food and nutrition security, reduce poverty, boost intra-African trade in agricultural goods and services, and enhance resilience of production systems and livelihoods to climate change and related shocks. This vision is articulated within Africa’s Agenda 2063 Ten Year Implementation Plan with short-term actions around seven strategic areas in the recently launched AU Business Plan for Implementation of the CAADP-Malabo Declaration 2017-2021.

    The seven areas are aligned to the different commitments in the 2014 Malabo Declaration including: Commitment to principles and values of the CAADP processes; Enhancing Investment Finance in Agriculture; Ending Hunger in Africa by 2025; Halving Poverty by 2025 through Inclusive Agricultural Growth and Transformation; Boosting intra African Trade in Agricultural Commodities and Services; Enhancing Resilience of Livelihoods and Production Systems for Climate Variability and other related risks and Enhanced Mutual Accountability for Strategic Actions and Results. These strategic actions aim to address challenges of youth unemployment that is continually rising, rural-urban dynamics, low agriculture-led industrialisation, natural resource vulnerability to many shocks and inadequate investment flows to the productive sector. To achieve this, the continent will need to continue to strengthen institutional and systemic capacities for programme implementation; it will also have to harness the required political will at all levels to enact the policy and institutional changes required for genuine agricultural development.

    Rigorous evidence-based analysis to guide strategic and collaborative planning among stakeholders in turn becomes the basis for our advocacy efforts. Internalising and applying the CAADP framework tools, principles and values to operationalise new ventures in agricultural industrialisation and growth should result in new comprehensive and integrated partnerships around defined priority business and investment opportunities. Our priority will be leveraging the required policy and institutional environment for responsible private sector participation and enacting reforms that catalyse opportunities for youths and women in an inclusive manner to engage in agricultural production and agribusinesses. These should be oriented to the best possible growth options and mainstreamed into existing national development strategies and activities with good prospects for achieving economies of national and/or regional scale and scope. The process should also result in transformed engagement with development partners in the context of a global economic architecture where Africa participates as an economic actor in its own right and where a shared vision exists of African countries networked into a coherent, continental economy and market. This should enable Africa to enhance the wealth creation capacity of the continent, including our capacity to retain a larger and fairer share of global wealth generated from the exploitation of its human and natural resources, investment opportunities and markets.

    The AU Commission continues to support the AU member states to integrate the Malabo commitments into their national agricultural investment plans, to identify and undertake policy and regulatory reforms to attract private sector investments in agriculture and to institutionalise partnerships that support advancement of the African agriculture Transformation Agenda. In turn, AU member states are progressively working toward identifying and committing resources to investments that will enable them to achieve the Malabo commitments and creating a conducive policy and regulatory environment to attract private sector investments into agriculture.

    About the interviewee
    H.E. Mrs. Josefa Sacko is Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission.

    Read the full magazine issue

    Sustainable food systems – Volume 6, Issue 4 (September/October 2017)
    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts sustainability at the heart of a wide range of human activities. Agriculture, and more broadly activities in our current food systems, are no exception. This issue of Great Insights magazine explores how we can achieve greater sustainability and inclusiveness.
    12 September 2017
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