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AGRF 2021 Summit: Agriculture stakeholders commit to holistic, inclusive approach to transforming African food systems

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Leaders from across Africa renewed their commitment to adopt a more holistic and inclusive approach to food systems in Africa to better tackle hunger and poverty and improve nutrition while conserving natural resources.

The declaration was made at the conclusion of the 2021 AGRF Summit, which convened more than 8,000 delegates from 103 countries, including six African Heads of State, 20 ministers, global business leaders, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, scientists, and international development partners.

Delegates called for a change in the way food is produced, processed, marketed and consumed in Africa and for reduction of food waste. Solutions they advised/proposed included boosting smallholder farmer productivity, investment in agribusinesses alongside access for all to safe and nutritious food.

“We know that a failure to change will make it impossible to achieve the key sustainable development goal of ending hunger by 2030.  Hunger and poverty in Africa can only end with resilient food systems,” the delegates stated in a declaration.

Speaking during the closing ceremony, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Board Chair of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), Hailemariam Dessalegn said: “This is a turning point in Africa’s agriculture. We should do things differently by taking a more integrated approach to food systems. It begins with agriculture but goes right through the business of food until it ends on our plate and in our trash.  In recognising importance of food systems and how they can drive economic growth, we must take a holistic sustainable agricultural transformation, thinking the whole way from production to consumption.

“The task of transforming our food systems is for all of us. If we all do our bit, we will make it”.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Peter Munya said: “The summit has helped us to recommit to the goals we set for ourselves as a continent, and individual countries, to end hunger by 2030. It is possible to deliver this because we have the resources, experience and knowledge and are mobilising the will. We need to support the young people of Africa to get involved in agriculture because there is no future without them.”

Coming ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit, the AGRF 2021 Summit provided an opportunity to elevate Africa’s common position, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. This included enhancing the resilience of Africa’s food system from external shocks, its fragility having been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Agnes Kalibata, AGRA’s President said: “The wide representation and participation at the summit has helped clarify Africa’s position on food systems transformation.  The summit showed that we know how to reduce hunger and malnutrition and tackle obesity, but we can only do this by working  together. We need to double down and come together to fix our broken food systems and meet the [SDG} goal of zero hunger by 2030.  It is only by working together that we can help deliver food security and prosperity for people and our planet!”

The AGRF 2021 Summit, whose theme was ‘Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems’, had over 700 speakers. The summit featured commitments on renewable energy, youth and women empowerment, and establishment of value chains.

It also led to the building of the emerging coalition of action for Decent Work and Living Incomes and the 43 game changing solutions, representing a coordinated African voice, that are being taken to the UNFSS.

The summit gathered consensus on the role of youth and women, as well as innovative technology to revitalise agricultural productivity and support farmers to build back better from effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, to feed the growing population.

During the summit, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) was named 2021 Africa Food Prize laureate, for its work in improving food security across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2021 was also launched, indicating that sub-Saharan Africa has had the fastest growth in agricultural production since 2000.

Jennifer Baarn, Acting Managing Director at the AGRF reaffirmed the forum’s commitment to advancing the actions towards 2030 to help identify pathways towards sustainable food systems in the continent. “We will be taking all the threads of prosperity, people and planet that have run through this summit and thinking about how that shapes our future work,” she said.