Agric development - African countries should take an integrated approach to economic, social and environmental dimensions in their quest for improved agricultural production and food security, a senior UN official suggested here Monday. “We need to focus on food, land, water, forest security, bio-energy resources, urban-rural as well as forward and backward linkages between agriculture and other evolving sectors of the African economies,” said Carlos Lopes, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Lopes told the 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Executive Council that the misconception of food security as a replacement for poverty reduction must be debunked.
“Food security should be approached economically and not as a poverty reduction programme,” he said, urging African countries to take advantage of new advances in science to leapfrog obsolete technology.
According to Lopes, Africa was near the threshold of what was necessary to push poverty down, as predictions of 6 percent growth this year means “we need one extra percent to attain 7 percent that will turn our fortunes around.”
Driving home the message on the need for an African agricultural revolution, Lopes quoted a Ghanaian saying that goes thus: ‘The drummer plays better on a full stomach.’
Recent estimates by the ECA show that African countries stand to lose between 2 and 16 percent of GDP due to stunting of children as a result of malnutrition.
Lopes said Africa needs to change tack and speed in order to realise its ambitions in agriculture.
Since subsidies in developed countries continue to distort international commodity markets and lead to dumping and depressed prices, thus making it unprofitable for African smallholder farmers, the ECA chief urged African countries to remain firm against unfair trade policies and protocols.
“This Year of Agriculture and Food Security provides an opportunity for Africa to take the lead in multilateral negotiations on agriculture, with key focus on access to international markets, export competition such as the use of export subsidies and removing domestic support and subsidies in developed countries,” Lopes suggested.