Africa plans way out of hunger

03 November 2020 | Agriculture



African countries this week convened to discuss the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, rising levels of hunger and malnutrition, and the growing swarms of locusts on the continent.

These issues formed the backdrop for the 31st session of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Regional Conference for Africa.

The conference, convened by the FAO of the United Nations in Zimbabwe, started on Monday and ends today.

The conference is a forum to discuss current country and regional priorities and pressing issues in the region, including the coronavirus pandemic's impact on food security and nutrition, the urgent need for food systems transformation, and innovations and partnerships to drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

More than 80 ministers and deputy ministers from 45 countries took part, as well as representatives from observer countries, donor organisations, civil society and the private sector.

According to the FAO, hundreds of delegates joined Zoom sessions and many more watched the live webcast.

Bold action

The FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, called for bold action in his opening speech.

“There are no other options than taking bold and accelerated collaborative actions to address these overlapping crises and build back better.”

He said hunger has been a daily experience for about a quarter of Africa's population.

“The number of people affected by the scourge of hunger is rising fast. For example, Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment (19.1%), which is more than twice the global average (8.9%).”

According to the FAO, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing food insecurity and malnutrition in many African countries.

Multiple factors

In recent years, climate change, conflict, economic slowdowns and pests such as locusts and armyworm have corroded livelihoods and pushed more people into hunger.

Africa has recorded the fastest growth in the number of hungry people compared to other regions and will have the greatest total number of hungry people in the next decade, outstripping Asia, if current trends persist.

In an opinion piece published in the lead up to the conference, the FAO director-general QU Dongyu urged greater innovation, solidarity, coherence and partnerships among and within African countries to address rising hunger.

The FAO estimates that donors and affected partner countries must double their investments until 2030 to drive progress.

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