African heads of state and government on Thursday renewed commitment to eradicate hunger and malnutrition that has derailed socio-economic progress on the continent.
Speaking at the High-Level Dialogue on Feeding Africa virtual forum, the leaders said it was possible for the continent to achieve hunger-free status subject to the transformation of agricultural systems through leveraging on technology, financing, irrigation and improved post-harvest management.
Macky Sall, President of Senegal said that Africa's ability to achieve food and nutrition security hinged on scaling up climate-smart farming combined with access to capital, markets and technology for smallholder farmers.
"Establishing resilient food systems in the continent is imperative given the hunger and malnutrition crisis that has been worsened by climate change and Covid-19 pandemic," said Sall.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), in partnership with the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) and the CGIAR System Organization, co-organized the event.
Food security agenda
Akinwumi Adesina, President of AfDB, said the aim of the two-day forum to be held from Thursday to Friday is to galvanize political goodwill required to revitalize the food security agenda in a continent where about 246 million people suffer from hunger.
"The continent must scale up efforts to feed its growing population while promoting environmental sustainability," said Adesina.
"Strong and accountable political leadership, policy reforms, investing in research, technology and innovations is key to transform farming systems and boost crop yield," he added.
Adesina said that empowering African small-holder farmers who produce nearly 80 percent of food in the continent should be at the heart of hunger eradication programmes.
Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia said the high-level dialogue summit will provide a platform for African leaders, policymakers and scholars to share best practices that can be harnessed to hasten the realization of the zero hunger goal.
"Dialogue is required to develop a new roadmap for the realization of sustainable development goals on hunger eradication in the continent. We need to harness technologies that boost food production," said Zewde.
She said that the Covid-19 pandemic reminded African leaders of the urgency to strengthen the resilience of food systems amid disruptions to key value chains that suppressed the availability of staples.
Gilbert Houngbo, President of Ifad, said that African countries should prioritise domestic resource mobilisation, improved land-use practices and adoption of climate-resilient crops in order to end the hunger and malnutrition crisis.
"Incentivising the local private sector could help bridge a financing gap that has slowed down agricultural transformation in Africa," said Houngbo.
He said that governments should encourage small-holder farmers to take up crop insurance alongside nature-based climate adaptation models in order to sustain the production of key staples like maize, rice and legumes.
Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana said that diversification, mechanization and greater farmers' outreach could unlock the potential of Africa's agriculture to achieve food security and boost rural incomes.