Food security action must follow words

A woman buys cabbages in a vegetable market in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. (Khalil Senosi, AP)

A woman buys cabbages in a vegetable market in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. (Khalil Senosi, AP)

In the lead-up to this past weekend’s G8 summit, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa met United States President Barack Obama and African heads of state to launch the next phase of our shared commitment to achieving global food security.

Focused on engaging the private sector in funding agricultural development, this initiative presents a new opportunity to find practical solutions to the devastating food crises that still plague Africa.

We have achieved common consensus on what needs to be done – what smallholder farmers in South Africa and the rest of the continent need: supportive policies, better seeds, access to finance, fertilisers, skills development and extension services, national research systems and market infrastructure.

Early results, based on the alliance’s efforts to meet these needs over the last five years, are encouraging. Because of the collective efforts of African governments, the global donor community, including the G8, research institutions, the private sector, farmers’ organisations and non-governmental organisations, we have seen remarkable progress. But now we must redouble our efforts.
At L’Aquila, the G8 countries stepped up; now, following Camp David, they must scale up, speed up and invest more.

We are at a critical turning point. To make the most of recent momentum, G8 leaders, African governments and the private sector need to take the following steps to deliver lasting food-security solutions.

Realistic pledges
First, G8 countries, African governments and the private sector need to put in place measures to ensure money is effectively dispersed. Multibillion-dollar commitments hold great promise, but only if they reach the farmers, researchers, agri-dealers, extension workers and others who are building Africa’s agricultural economy. Realistic pledges with meaningful accountability are absolutely necessary.

Second, international and African governments need to build structures that funnel funds to agriculture’s private sector economic development. Given the private sector focus of the new initiative, it is critically important to scale up mechanisms such as the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, which permits funding through the private sector or other non-state actors such as the alliance and farmers’ organisations. Funding continues to be channelled almost exclusively through public institutions.

Third, we must listen to the smallholder farmer and small agribusiness owners across Africa. They are the experts, tirelessly working to move the continent forwards.

The alliance supports an approach that is co-ordinated globally but is African-led and focused on smallholder farmers. This approach must be equitable, transparent and accountable to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. As the dust settles on the recent G8 summit, I hope the leaders the alliance met at Camp David, and those we continue to meet on the continent, will fund their commitments and take the bold action necessary to feed future generations.

Jane Karuku is president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which works to achieve a food-secure and prosperous continent through the promotion of sustainable agriculture based on smallholder farmers

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