Africa Agriculture Status Report 2021 urges governments to make food insecurity a national security issue

The 2021 Africa Agriculture Status Report 2021 (ASR21) is urging governments on the continent to make food insecurity a national security issue worth prioritizing.

The report launched during the Alliance for Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Nairobi wants governments to “prioritize investments in agri-food systems as a national security, poverty alleviation, and rural development agenda.”

Launched by President of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the report urges governments on the continent to demonstrate political commitment for government support to agriculture by honouring commitments such as the Maputo Declaration to increase annual national budgetary allocations for agriculture to at least 10 percent.

It also urges governments to ensure that agricultural research, development and extension systems receive a significant share of total public expenditures on agriculture given their centrality to raising agricultural productivity.

The report addresses the challenges and opportunities in the creation of sustainable and resilient agri-food systems in Africa.

It explores what “building resilient and sustainable food systems in Africa entails, and calls for necessary actions by governments, panAfrican organizations, bilateral and multilateral development partners, and the private sector to improve food systems.

“This year’s AASR21 details the practical steps all stakeholders from governments and regional organizations to the private sector need to take to rebuild and enhance Africa’s food systems,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that despite the progress we’ve made over the last decade, Africa’s food systems remain fragile to external shocks. We must take the opportunity we have to rebuild from the pandemic, to make our food systems more resilient without putting further pressure on the environment,” Dr Kalibata added.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has registered the most rapid rate of agricultural production growth since 2000 of any region of the world. However, three quarters of this growth is driven by the expansion of crop land, over yield increases.

With Africa’s population expected to double to nearly 2,5 billion by 2050, now is the time for stakeholders to put the steps in place to increase production without compromising the continent’s natural resources, the report notes.

“Raising yields and productivity on existing farmland is among the most important ways to make African food systems more resilient and sustainable. Raising productivity on existing farmland will reduce pressures for continued expansion of cropland, and preserve valued forest and grassland ecosystems and the biodiversity that they provide,” said Andrew Cox, AGRA’s Chief of Staff and Strategy.

The report outlines the priorities and next steps that must be taken by all stakeholders to achieve the transformation that will lead to sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.

“The AASR21 should serve as a wake-up call of the need to act urgently to support the creation of resilient food systems and reverse or mitigate the impact we’ve seen on the environment,” said Dr. Thom Jayne of Michigan State University, and lead author of the report.

The report says African governments need to take charge of their destinies by not relying on international partners to fund and influence how agricultural research and development are undertaken.

Governments can take control and build resilience, sustainability, community empowerment, and inclusiveness principles into the performance measures of national agricultural institutions and international research partners working in African countries, the report says.

Modern science and agroecology principles can be combined to promote food systems resilience and sustainability, it added.

African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
The report also urges all African governments to enact the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to expand the market for African farmers and create new incentives for the private sector to invest in African food systems.

This should be accompanied by government investments in transportation and communications infrastructure to lower the cost of food trade between African countries.

The report says for African food systems to be resilient and sustainable, significant investments are required from both public and private sectors. Governments need to move beyond treating agriculture as a social sector to treating it as a bankable business.

A key role of the government is to enact and implement policies that encourage private investment, innovation, and competition in Africa’s food systems – recognizing that both informal small firms and large agribusiness firms are needed for a sustainable and resilient food systems.

The AASR21 was launched at the 11th edition of the AGRF Summit, an annual gathering that brings together heads of state and government, agriculture ministers, members of the civil society, private sector leaders, scientists and farmers in discussions that define the future of Africa’s food systems.

Under the theme “Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems,” this year’s AGRF Summit will explore the pathways and actions needed to steer the continent towards food systems that deliver sufficient and nutritious food, protect the environment and create sustainable jobs.

“This AASR21 has laid out contributing factors at various stages of the food systems and outlined the characteristics of a new resilient and sustainable system. Reforming food systems to achieve lasting change is a complex task. It requires cooperation from all system stakeholders with African governments firmly in the drivers’ seat steering the required change,” the report noted.

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