The head of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has welcomed a breakthrough commitment by African leaders to end hunger on the continent by 2025, and has pledged the UN's support as they work to "transform vision into reality."
"This is the first time in history that African leaders have made such a strong pledge to eliminate hunger and it is also a show of confidence that, working together, we can win the fight against hunger in Africa in our lifetimes," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said yesterday after African Union (AU) member States officially adopted the target at the AU Summit under way in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"Africa is witnessing economic growth of unprecedented proportions, but it is also the only continent in the world where the total number of hungry people has gone up since 1990," he said, underscoring that: "The challenge now is to transform the vision of a food-secure Africa into reality by tackling the multiple causes of hunger."
"Investing in agriculture, creating safety nets and social protection for the poor, guaranteeing the right of access to land and water resources and targeting small-holder famers and young people will be key," Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding that FAO would continue to support Africa in its efforts to eradicate hunger.
The 2025 target was initially hashed out at a high-level meeting on food security in Africa organized by the AU, Brazil's Lula Institute - headed by former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva - and FAO in Addis Ababa in July 2013.
Governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector agreed on the target as a means of promoting concrete actions that build upon the momentum of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Mr. Graziano da Silva also highlighted the leadership of the AU Commission and Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in taking this process forward, calling the measure a "fully Africa-owned effort."
According to FAO, 11 African countries have already met the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) hunger target to reduce by half the proportion of hungry people between 1990 and 2015: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Togo.
"This is clear evidence that African countries are moving in the right direction," Graziano da Silva said.
Three countries - Djibouti, Ghana, and Sao Tome and Principe - have also met the even more ambitious 1996 World Food Summit goal to reduce by half the total number of hungry.
The new 2025 AU target aligns the continent with the Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012.