"The Food Security issue is a time bomb waiting to explode. If you thought we had issues in Africa, wait until you see what's coming."
This was the warning call from Sylvia Mwichuli, Communications and Public Affairs Director of the African Green Revolution (AGRA). Mwichuli was addressing eighteen journalists who attended the Development Journalism Training Workshop for African Media, which kick started on Monday 24th September in Arusha, Tanzania.
Underwritten by Highway Africa's Reporting Development Network Africa (rDNA) in partnership with AGRA, the workshop acted as a notable prelude to the 2012 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which will see agriculture experts, governments and media assembled to discuss the issue of food security and development in Africa, from 26-28 September 2012.
The rDNA-AGRA partnership brings agriculture journalists from key markets around Africa, who in the course of two days will unpack the importance of reporting agriculture and food security stories in Africa's newsrooms. "This is the single most important issue that Africa is going to face heading the future," confirms Mwichuli, urging media to not act as mere reporters, but as equal stakeholders in the deliberations that are about to unfold in the next five days.
AGRF 2012 builds on recent global-momentum to tackle global food security. The conference follows after discussions during the recent World Economic Forum on Africa and the G8. Delegate will further interrogate the capacity of Africa's agriculture as an answer to the world food problem. Expectant results from this conference include the formation of public- and-private agriculture alliances, launching sustainability consortiums that will hopefully provide solutions to the strengthen world food security.
The rDNA-AGRA partnership directly speaks to rDNA's mission- to mainstream development and sustainability news into Africa's newsroom- particularly issues around agriculture, food security and financial services in the continent.
"This conference (AGRF) believes that Africa has a potential to feed itself," says Mwichuli, encouraging journalists to forcefully interrogate the G8 agenda and what it brings to Africa's table. "How can you call yourself independent when you rely on someone else to feed you?" Mwichuli questioned, and further emphasised the political and human right discourse that emerges from the food security story.
Africa can take lessons from countries like India, which 20 years ago equally struggled and were basket cases with families famished out on the streets, but now
thrives in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the capacity to feed its people. The forum therefore sets the stage for African ownership in the next phase of agriculture development solutions and steering investment to build a sustainable food secure continent.
Professor Richard Mkandawire, Father of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAAPD), answered critical questions from the journalist about Africa's progress on CAADP. Outlining past approaches to agriculture development, Mkandawire shunned the linear research and extension model, where farmers are mere targets of change and not active participants in the sustainability agenda. "The prevailing levels of hunger in a world that produces enough to feed everybody are not acceptable," said Mkandawire. What Africa needs are interdependent interventions to agricultural development, which Mkandawire advises should include simultaneous robust development of technology, policies and institutions, infrastructure markets and human capacity development.
The question then remains what Africa must do to get itself out of the food security case. Organisations like AGRA and partners are driving for discussions that will result with resolute collaborations that will ensure Africa is food secure and an able exporter of food and staple.
The host for this forum is the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, partnering with key stakeholders including; YARA International ASA, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), AGRA, The New Partnerships for Africa's Development (NEPAD), African Union (AU), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), OCP Group, the Rockefeller with Influences from regional Economic Communities, Media Academia and the benefactors being the grassroots and commercial farmer.