A new initiative fusing United Nations know-how, African leadership and the political backing of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva kicked-off today as the three partners declared their intent to join efforts in the fight against hunger and undernourishment in Africa.
During a meeting at the African Union's (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the African Union (AU) and the not-for-profit Instituto Lula agreed to pursue their "shared vision" of a hunger-free Africa through a coordinated campaign against malnutrition and food security, according to an FAO news release announcing the partnership.
"Building a food and nutrition-secure Africa requires better governance, renewed political will and strong commitment to work together through innovative and comprehensive food security and nutrition programmes and strategies involving all concerned stakeholders," said FAO's Director-General, José Graziano da Silva.
According to FAO statistics, the number of undernourished people on the African continent has steadily increased since the early 1990s, from 175 million to 239 million today.
Despite the negative trend, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, underscored Africa's agricultural potential, noting that 60 per cent of the continent's arable land was still unutilized.
"This enormous potential can make a real difference to improve our agricultural production and food security," said Ms. Zuma, adding that the time had come for African farmers to move beyond subsistence agriculture to more expansive methods of agro-industrial production.
At the meeting, according to an FAO news release, the three leaders agreed on the need to scale up and build on already successful food-security initiatives, as well as promote knowledge-sharing between countries and facilitate high-level political dialogue.
In particular, the news release noted that areas such as the coordination, allocation and deployment of financial and human resources and strengthening regional and national institutional capacities still required improvement.
For his part, Mr. Lula da Silva underscored his willingness to share Brazil's successful experiences combating hunger and promoting income distribution through cash transfers and development during his period at the helm of Brazilian government.
"The miracle is permitting that poor people have access to credit and technology," said the former President. "We want poor people to learn that with credit and technology they will produce more, eat better, have surpluses to sell and will have additional income to improve the lives of their families."
The next step in the initiative's mission will be defined at a high-level meeting with African and international leaders scheduled on 4 and 5 March next year, and to be held in Addis Ababa.