African countries convene at UN FAO conference to plan way out of hunger crisis

African countries convene at UN FAO conference to plan way out of hunger crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic, rising levels of hunger and malnutrition, and growing swarms of locusts are the backdrop for the 31st Session of the Regional Conference for Africa, starting today, convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. More than  80 Ministers and deputy Ministers from more than 45 countries are taking part, as well as representatives from observer countries, donor organizations, civil society and the private sector. Hundreds of delegates will join the Zoom sessions over the next three days, and many more will watch the live webcast.

“The Government of Zimbabwe is pleased to be supporting and to be part of this important forum,” said Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Anxious Jongwe Masuka, whose country is hosting the event and who is the Conference Chair. “We look forward to the solid recommendations to strengthen nations post COVID-19,” he said.

FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel made a call for bold action during his opening remarks.

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

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing food insecurity and malnutrition in many African countries. In recent years, climate change, conflict, economic slowdowns and pests such as Desert Locusts and Fall 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 has urged greater innovation, solidarity, coherence and partnerships among and within African countries to address rising hunger. FAO estimates that donors and affected partner countries must double their investments from now until 2030 to drive progress.

Director-General QU will speak at tomorrow’s opening of the Ministerial Meeting, starting at 9 am GMT.

Hand-in-Hand for Africa’s future

Participants at the first day of the Conference have discussed the urgent need to build food and agriculture systems resilient to crises such as climate extremes and transboundary pests and diseases.

Progress on food security and nutrition in Africa’s small island developing states such as Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde and São Tomé and landlocked countries such as Burundi, Lesotho, and Zambia was also in the spotlight.

Highlights in the coming days include a special session on implementation in the region of FAO’s Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which brings together digital innovation and investment partners to accelerate agricultural transformation.

With the African Union, FAO will launch a new publication that looks at gender in Africa and its role in food security.

The Conference ends on Wednesday 28 October.

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