The Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente says the increasing food prices on the African continent should be a wake-up call for African countries to take bold actions by investing in strengthening food systems.
The Premier made the call on Tuesday while officially opening the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) Summit 2022 which opened in Kigali with the aim of driving agricultural transformation and strengthening food systems on the continent.
Dr. Ngirente said that the summit which opened under the theme “Grow, Nourish, Reward – Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems” highlights the urgent need to build inclusive, sustainable and resilient food systems in this post-covid period.
The PM said that while over the years Africa has achieved good progress in different sectors including agriculture sector, which was only disturbed by the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, there is a need to invest more and work together for better recovery.
“While most countries are recovering from this global shock, our ability to get together more than ever is key in advancing food systems to ensure food security for our people,”
“The current high food prices we are experiencing nowadays, makes it difficult for families and communities to meet their own food needs,”
“This calls for bold measures to improve our capabilities for sustainable food production and supply to markets. What we do now impacts tomorrow’s results,” Dr. Ngirente said.
Among other things, PM Ngirente rallied the continent to invest more in key areas that can transform the sector in a more tangible manner.
“Increasing investment in strategic areas of agricultural value chain such as reduction of post-harvest losses, which are estimated between 30% and 40% of total production in developing countries, use of fertilizers and improved seeds, adoption of smart agriculture as well as de-risking the sector will build resilient and sustainable food security,”
“For this to be achieved, there is a need to build strong partnership between the public and private sector for diversified investments that broadly impact agriculture production,” he pointed out.
Prime Minister Ngirente gave a glimpse of Rwanda’s experience, including the 2008 food price crisis, which prompted the country to deliberately invest in agriculture value chains and other key interventions targeted to strengthen Rwanda’s food systems.
“As we work to achieve sustainable food systems, Rwanda continues to invest in several initiatives. These include establishing post-harvest handling facilities to limit food losses and waste,”
“We are also promoting use of smart farming techniques, such as increasing irrigation coverage to mitigate the negative effects of climate change as well as the use of agriculture ICT systems,” the PM said.
Among other things, he said Rwanda has been encouraging farmers to use fertilizers and improved seeds as part of the Crop Intensification Program, applying irrigation and land consolidation, initiatives he said have paid off.
“De-risking agriculture sector is also our priority as Government to make the sector more profitable and attractive, especially to the young population as future workforce in the agriculture sector,” Dr. Ngirente said.
He pointed out that several schemes have been initiated such as the Agricultural Insurance scheme while the Government has also invested heavily in agriculture extension services including plant breeding research centres.
According to the PM, this has helped to reduce Rwanda’s dependency on seed importation, adding that currently, most of the improved seeds are locally produced.
He also said that Rwanda has also established the National Strategic Grain Reserve in response to potential shocks to food supply and that the reserve is used as a safety net to support communities affected by disasters while buffering prices and avoiding market distortion.
Driving the continental agenda
PM Ngirente that African leaders took a bold action at a continental level, coming together to form the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and there is a need to leverage such mechanisms to ensure that the continent is able to better meet its food security needs.
“In this journey to transform African agriculture, African countries need to fully commit to driving a comprehensive agricultural transformation as a key foundation of our economic growth,”
“Together we will continue working on this agenda as we accelerate bold actions in this African Union Year of Nutrition. Let us take this moment to ensure we get back on track towards meeting the goals we have set ourselves in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Malabo Declaration,” Dr. Ngirente said.
The former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Chair of AGRF, Hailemariam Desalegn, said the flagship Agriculture and Food Systems conference, which brought together over 2,600 people in Kigali, including policymakers, researchers, farmers, development partners and civil society in one place, is a big opportunity for the continent to end hunger.
Desalegn noted that the summit comes as the continent grapples with challenges in global food supply and effects of the pandemic that have undone gains in efforts to end hunger and build food security.
He pointed out that the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit brought the global shift from increasing productivity paradigm to that of Food systems transformation.
“The food system transformation has become even more urgent due to the nexus between food, agriculture and the related issues like health, nutrition, education, trade and industrialization,”
“These are truly drivers of economic growth. Food systems transformation is key to economic transformation. We need to take bold actions urgently, this calls for new, stronger, innovative and strategic leadership to ensure that food systems are more resilient,” Desalegn said.
Desalegn, who is also the board chair of AGRA, said that anything short of that implies that Africa is likely to be the only hungry continent by 2027.
Desalegn noted that the cost of food is 42 percent higher on average since the shock of Covid-19 and the food Crisis began, while climate change effects and other factors continue to set back the gains made in achieving food security, particularly on the Africa continent.
He observed that the challenges the continent faces today require stronger leadership because every day, two children and two women fall below the poverty line, due to hunger.
He said the continent can’t afford to wait anymore, calling on the summit to be resilient because Covid-19, economic and climate-related shocks have rendered food systems on the continent more fragile.
AGRA’s President, Dr Agnes Kalibata, said that building on the 2022 Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR22) launched on Tuesday, the journey towards food and nutritional security for Africa has a very clear destination, which is zero hunger.
“We also have a very reasonable consensus on the roadmap; that is sustainable intensification, climate-smart agriculture and the food systems approach. The report focuses on is how we can get there,”
“We must accelerate the transformation of African food systems. Africa’s food systems are highly vulnerable to climate change, conflict and other shocks,” Dr. Kalibata said, adding that the report clearly outlines what is at stake.
Dr. Kalibata said that to achieve food and nutritional security, African governments must anticipate and proactively respond to major demographic, economic, environmental and social megatrends that are shaping the continents food Systems.
Hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the AGRF Partner’s Group, the Summit runs until Friday, intends to address bottlenecks hindering development of strong food systems while highlighting approaches and initiatives that have worked across different markets.
President Paul Kagame will lead a presidential summit consisting of sitting and former African Heads of State to review the gains made in Africa’s agricultural landscape.
This year’s Summit will also include discussions around building strong foundations required to avert crises such as those currently witnessed with the rising cost of living for African people.
These discussions will lay out visions of success as well as what is at stake for the people at this time of crisis, while emphasising the type of leadership and action needed to move forward with more resilient food systems.
AGRF partners and key stakeholders will also highlight initiatives and commitments to transform food systems and accelerate Africa’s delivery of the 2030 targets.
Some of the key highlights in this year’s AGRF 2022 Summit will include the Agribusiness Deal Room, a platform for connecting innovators with critically needed capital, the Presidential Summit, Farmers Forum, and a Youth Town Hall.