FAO stresses the need for investment now to sustain Africa’s agriculture in a post COVID-19 era
Brussels Dialogue brings together the African Union, the Organization of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union
27 May 2020, Brussels– As COVID-19 increasingly affects Africa, the shocks to agriculture and food systems become more evident. Building resilience for the most vulnerable is now a priority.
That was the message participants stressed repeatedly during the FAO Brussels Dialogue “Sustaining food security and resilience in Africa in times of COVID 19” a virtual event organized by the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels. The event brought together partners from the African Union, the Organization of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union, to continue the discussion that started some weeks ago with the AU-FAO Ministerial meeting on the impacts of COVID-19 on food security in Africa.
Opening the event, FAO Brussels Director Rodrigo de Lapuerta stressed the urgent need for investments in order to ensure the sustainable functioning of food systems and build the resilience of the populations for more effective recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
“In Africa already 412 million people suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, impairing the body’s ability to resist the COVID 19 infection”, said FAO Deputy Director-General Laurent Thomas, refering to the alarming findings of the Global Report on Food crises. Thomas highlighted the existing partnerships between FAO, UNIDO, the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), all of which ensure that social protection measures are being put in place for the most vulnerable in the continent. Such measures have been one of the top recommendations of the Declaration adopted by the 55 African Ministers in April.
For her part Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture focused on the ongoing work of the recently established Task Force on the impact of COVID-19 on food Security and Nutrition in Africa. Sacko called for solidarity and unity during these difficult times and updated the audience on the ongoing work of the Task Force that will follow up on the actions of the Ministerial declaration. She pointed for the need to think beyond COVID-19 and to focus on innovative measures to modernize African agriculture. Such measures should include boosting intraregional trade, using the continental free trade agreement, the creation of green corridors and supporting the informal sector she said.
Georges Chikoti, Secretary-General of the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) described with vivid examples from African countries how the pandemic has shaken food systems and threatens livelihoods while the Ambassador of the Gambia to the European Union and Chair of the Committee of Ambassadors of OACPS Teneng Mba Jaiteh said that strengthening agricultural systems is a priority because this is where the sustainability of food production lies.
With a message that emphasized the One Health approach to prevent future pandemics, the European Union was represented at the event by Marjeta Jager, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development. Jager stressed that the EU will continue to step up support to address the various food crises and the humanitarian-development-peace nexus in hotspot areas with a special attention to the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
For his part, Marc Tarabella Member of the European Parliament and of the European Parliamentary Alliance against hunger and malnutrition underscored the role Parliamentarians can play in ensuring development interventions are adequately financed.
The over 600 participants in the event, many from European institutions, Embassies, the UN family, the private sector and academia, were able to put questions directly to an expert panel, who highlighted the vital contribution of FAO to fighting hunger, reducing extreme poverty, and empowering women, while safeguarding livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic. FAO’s experts working in African countries interacted live with the participants and highlighted the tangible impact FAO’s interventions on lives and livelihoods.
Panelists included Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional representative for Africa; Maximo Torero Cullen, FAO’s Chief Economist and Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Department, and Dominique Burgeon, Director of Emergencies and Resilience, and Dejene Tezera, Director of Department of Agri-business from UNIDO. They offered insights on disruptions in the food supply chains, impacts on access to and availability of food, and the importance of healthy food systems, among other topics.
Dejene Tezera, Director of Department of Agri-business from UNIDO, FAO’s partner on a number of key projects, including Opportunities for Youth in Africa (OYA) joined the FAO speakers on discussing the opportunities for rural women and youth among others.
The FAO Brussels Dialogues are a new concept launched by the FAO Liaison Office in Brussels to share FAO’s expertise with the European Union, policymakers, academia, civil society, private sector and other partners and stakeholders. The FAO Brussels Dialogues are online events regularly taking place with a diverse panel of speakers focusing on current themes pertaining to food and agriculture and invite a global audience to interact and participate.
The recording of the event is available here.