Food security high on the agenda

Professor Richard Mkandawire won the Drivers of Change individual category in 2008 for his work in driving the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Three years later the programme is playing a critical role in Africa’s future food and nutrition security and has gained widespread international ­recognition and support.

The judges say the award was for Mkandawire’s “outstanding leadership in convincing African leaders and the international community that Africa can muster the ability and political will to overcome hunger and poverty through a green revolution for food security. His efforts are already ­producing good results.”

Mkandawire says: “The Drivers of Change Award enhanced our confidence that the path we had charted was the correct one.”Working in Africa has taught Mkandawire to “appreciate the complexity of issues and challenges associated with hunger and poverty reduction among small-scale farmers and the urban poor in Africa, as well as that there are no short cuts to progress”.

Mkandawire, born in Malawi and with a PhD from the University of East Anglia in England, has gained acclaim for his work as an agricultural economist and rural development expert. In 2008 he also received an honorary doctor of science degree in agricultural sciences from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This expertise lies at the heart of what CAADP does as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).

Mkandawire was put in charge of its partnerships, resource mobilisation and communications directorate last year. At its simplest CAADP is an agriculture programme that is seeking African solutions for the food and nutrition security problems the continent faces, says Mkandawire.

This approach forces countries to look at their own resources and potential and come up with internal solutions to agricultural problems, rather than bringing in foreign ones. This is the growth strategy that drove phenomenal Asian development, he says.

Mkandawire says CAADP, launched by Nepad in 2003, is “the first time in the history of African agricultural development discourses that a collective framework has been adopted by African leaders”. It aims to make countries invest a minimum of 10% of their national budget in agriculture and attain an average annual growth rate of 6% in the sector. But even this level of investment would cover only 70% of costs, with the remainder needing to come from external sources, he says.

In the past three years CAADP has been supported in policy documents by bodies such as the World Bank and the European Commission. A new generation of leaders in Africa is committed to the programme, he says.

“The new leaders are aware that Africa cannot continue to be designated as the home of global poverty and hunger. The very fact that they have positioned agriculture at the top of the continental agenda is a reflection of their commitment to enhancing agricultural growth and food security.”

To date 10 countries have met their 10% budget targets and nine others are nearly there. Eighteen countries have achieved the target of 6% annual growth in the agricultural sector.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho is the Mail & Guardian's News Editor. He also does investigative environment journalism.

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