Finally, the G8 are demanding a greater focus on agriculture and food and nutrition security.
In the lead up to the recent G8 Summit at Camp David, USA, the host, President Obama made a call to, "achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years".
The endorsement of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the Summit is a promising sign of renewed commitment from the G8 countries to urgently needed agricultural sector reforms that prioritize smallholder farmers and promote food security in Africa, with the assistance of private sector partnerships. In addition to the existing USD 22 billion commitment from donors for food security, the Summit declared that USD3 billion in new funds would be raised - mostly from the private sector.
Nevertheless, critical questions remain outstanding. Will the donors deliver on their commitments? Will the private sector invest enough and commit to supporting smallholder farmers? Who will be accountable to whom and for what?
A welcome sign at this Summit was the inclusion of African public and private sector leaders - the Heads of State of Ghana, Benin and Tanzania, as well as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the President of the African Development Bank, and prominent African leaders, including Africa Progress Panel Member and Prudential Plc. CEO, Tidjane Thiam, Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO, Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, and Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Chairman Econet Wireless, in the food security discussions.
The agricultural sector represents the primary source of employment and thus food security for most Africans. But for far too long, smallholder farmers have suffered from a combination of indifference and damaging policies. Investment in this sector will provide critical employment opportunities for the poorest addresses rural poverty reduction, and enhance food security.
The Guardian UK's Poverty Matters blog noted recently that the G8 announcement represents little in the way of new aid commitments. Donors do not have a good track record on delivering on their promises for agriculture. For example, only half of the $22 billion pledged for food security at the 2009 l'Aquila, Italy G8 Summit has been delivered to date. The G8's emphasis on mobilizing private sector resources to increase investment in the agricultural sector should also be questioned given the scale of need and lack of accountability to the African public. Concerns are emerging that the private sector's focus may not be aligned with poverty reduction objectives.
As the UK prepares to take up the G8 Chair in 2013, priority must be given to meeting aid commitments set at l'Aquila and reiterated at the Camp David Summit. The US has already produced an accountability report on the 2012 G8 meeting outcomes indicating 2009 food security commitments will be met by the end of 2012, and donors should be held to this timeline. Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a first step by announcing a "hunger summit" around the 2012 Olympics in London (23 May, Global Development).
The UK now has a unique opportunity to keep the issues of food and nutrition security at the center of development policy since Cameron has been appointed to co-chair Ban Ki-moon's panel on the post MDG agenda and, in 2013, the UK will take over the G8 Presidency. It is also an opportunity to promote greater accountability in both the private and public sectors. Greater aid accountability is clearly outlined in the Camp David Accountability Report and more broadly in the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
The refocus at the Camp David G8 meeting on agriculture sector reform is a step in the right direction; the G8 must now fully support implementation and monitoring of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition targets, and ensure that smallholder farms are integrated into private sector partnership strategies.
Caroline Kende-Robb is the Executive Director of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of distinguished individuals, chaired by Kofi Annan, dedicated to encouraging progress in Africa.