Developing strategies to end hunger

Promises That Matter: Towards Africa's Green Revolution

The city of Arusha in Tanzania sits close to Africa's highest mountain- Mount Kilimanjaro. Given its mild climate, the region’s primary industry is agriculture. Both small and large scale vegetable and flower producers earn their livelihood from tilling the land, with some of the produce exported to global markets. But just like many other farmers around the world, those in the Arusha area are also grappling with the devastating effects of increasingly high and volatile food prices.

Given these realities, the risks of relying on agriculture for one’s livelihood, especially the risks borne by smallholder farmers, can be overwhelming. Today, therefore, the challenge – and the opportunity – is both to reduce and diffuse these risks. One way is to promote sustainable food production in poor, food-importing countries such as Tanzania, where there is often huge potential to improve production. Doing so would make more food available in local markets at affordable prices, and it would provide jobs and income in the rural areas where 70 percent of the world’s poor people live.

Agricultural growth remains key to reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. That is why, in 2003, African heads of state rallied to form the pan-African Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which works for sustained public spending on agriculture-led growth. This unprecedented political and financial commitment in Africa demands sustained support to take the potential of agriculture on the continent to scale. Despite signs of increasing productivity, agricultural potential remains largely untapped on the continent.

Recognizing both the challenges and opportunities in Africa's agriculture, last week, September 26-28, the 2012 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was held in Arusha. The forum aimed to provide a platform to discuss current national and global efforts to invest in Africa's potential for sustainable agricultural growth and poverty reduction. Bread for the World was among the over one thousand participants who joined heads of state and government ministers, business leaders, grassroots organizations, farmers, global thought leaders, and other stakeholders at the AGRF.

FarmVisitBread for the World Senior Policy Analyst Faustine Wabwire and other AGRF participants visit a small holder farm in Arusha Photo Credit: Bread for the World Institute

AGRF 2012, under the theme: Scaling investment and innovation for sustainable agricultural growth and food security set the stage for African and world leaders to promote investments and policy support to increase agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers. Key topics of discussion included:

  • Revolutionizing agricultural finance: reducing risk, scaling up, and reaching out;
  •  Rethinking public- private partnerships: catalytic policy interventions for transformative change;
  • Strategic partnerships to build African science and technology capacity for agricultural development; and
  •  Making regional agricultural markets work.

The 2012 AGRF agenda builds on already existing global efforts to end hunger and poverty. At the 2012 G-8 Summit in Camp David, global leaders made bold new commitments to unite the power of the public and private-sectors, launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The approach is clear. The plan specifically is to help 50 million people lift themselves out of poverty over the next 10 years.

But simply drawing excellent plans without keeping promises will not put food on the table for the millions of people who suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition.

National governments, civil society, the private sector and the international community must sustain this momentum by investing in Africa's potential for rapid and sustainable agricultural growth. The right policies are also needed to increase this public and private investment. And, of course, people need decent jobs and incomes so that they can afford the food they need and help themselves and their children escape from poverty.

AGRF 2012 was chaired by His Excellency Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General and chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and hosted by His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, president of the Republic of Tanzania.

The only promises that matter are the promises that are kept. Faustine Wabwire is senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.


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