The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: PM Urges Africa to Build Resilient Agricultural System, Strengthen Marketing

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that Africa must strive to build a resilient agricultural system, that Africa has to invest in raising the productivity of small farmers,

strengthening agricultural marketing systems, bringing more land under irrigation, and reducing land degradation by soil and water conservation measures including biological measures for sustainable land management.

The above was mentioned during a speech at the opening of a workshop on "Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security." The conference was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR,) its 2020 Vision Initiative, and partners at the Sheraton Addis from May 15-17 and has brought together policymakers, practitioners, and scholars to discuss how resilience can be strengthened for food and nutrition security.

"Our people are at the center of these investments and policies," Hailemariam said.

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI,) the post-2015 agenda should aim to end hunger by 2025--and can succeed by building resilience to various environmental, political and economic shocks that threaten food security and livelihoods.

More than 800 experts from around the world are convening in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for a three-day conference to discuss the scope of this challenge and the investments required to end hunger and malnutrition for good. IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan stressed the conference's relevance in light of growing uncertainty and extreme events. "Many of the potential shocks we face, such as disease, food price spikes, and natural disasters, know no borders. Our success in coping and even thriving in the presence of shocks will depend on renewed efforts to cooperate and collaborate on a resilience agenda," he said. "Strengthened resilience in turn will be key to achieving an end to hunger."

This call-to-action was echoed by fellow panelists Maria Helena Semedo, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Deputy Director General for Natural Resources, and Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Commissioner of the African Union Commission. The African Union is celebrating its Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa in 2014.

Many major shocks hit poor people and vulnerable communities the hardest, and these groups also face constant threats of crop failure, disease, and accidents. All of these shocks, large and small, combined with chronic poverty, contribute to the persistence of hunger and under nutrition.

This requires action and investments in the form of research and knowledge sharing, policy and program prioritizing, and scaling up of successful approaches--especially for smallholder farmers.

"Successful small farms--which are responsible for up to 80 percent of the food produced in some countries--can create vibrant rural areas that ensure a dynamic flow of economic benefits between rural and urban areas," said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD.) "Investing in the resilience of smallholder farmers is also investing in the resilience of food systems and communities and the balanced and sustained development of nations."

Commitments to building resilience were announced during the inaugural session of the conference. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP,) announced plans to launch the Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE,) which will reinforce community resilience by responding to forecast climate shocks before they occur and providing multiyear financing for long-term activities.

During his announcement, Cousin said, "Resilience will pay dividends for fragile communities who today face environmental, economic, and nutritional bankruptcy. For people in communities affected by droughts, floods, and other shocks, a resilience approach allows comprehensive action that both restores the productivity of people's land and significantly improves their well being. Empowering resilient families to withstand shocks can reduce--even by half--the likelihood that children will become malnourished."

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