Africa Agriculture Status Report (AASR) Launch
There has never been a time in Africa when sustainability and resilience have been more important – food security and a robust agri-food system are crucial in a world where climate and health shocks are ever more prevalent.
This year’s Africa Agriculture Status report was unveiled today (Tuesday 7th September, 2021) with a focus on how we build sustainable and resilient agri-food systems, technology, job creation, market opportunities, global sustainability, enhancing nutritional quality of food products and regreening Africa through ecosystem restoration.
We know that sustainability is a key objective of development policy, but resilience has been neglected.
Dr Louise Fox, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute, acknowledged that resilience has been taken for granted in the global North because it seems to have always been there, but no-ones knows how it got there.
This century, resilience is having its moment, highlighted by so many shocks. Now each country needs to find its own way, to develop its own path and strategy.
Dr Fox highlighted the strength of this year’s report, saying that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, because we have to recognise that if we are too ambitious we won’t make it. There is no 75-point plan, but there are ideas, recommendations and encouragement for how countries can find their own way forward.
Prof. Adesoji Adelaja, Michigan State University (MSU), talked of how Ebola, cholera, malaria and other endemic diseases weaken Africa’s health systems. Now there is COVID, and we can expect more in the future unless the root causes are addressed and reversed.
Meanwhile, climate change continues. These shocks, and others, must be mitigated by resilience strategies that are in addition to existing growth strategies, because it is resilience that will hasten the journey to sustainability.
Wandili Sihlobo, Chief Economist, Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, added climate change, biosecurity, animal disease and pests as additional drivers and called for an effective policy environment and the need for tax incentives for SMEs in order to encourage investment. Private sector investment will come if policy issues are addressed, but African governments need to ramp up the pace of policy reforms and continue to invest in infrastructure.
Poor quality diet is the main driver of disease wherever you are – Africa or Europe. Dr. Lawrence HaddadExecutive Director, GAIN, wants us to move away from hunger and talk about nutrition. 75% of Africa can’t afford a healthy diet and preventing malnutrition should be our priority – it destroys muscle, the brain and the immune system. We have the opportunity to not just focus on staples, but look beyond to the more nutritious sources, and they need to be promoted by governments. They need to look at their own procurement, in schools and hospitals, and ask if they are sending the right signals. But whatever the future holds, we must acknowledge that taking a food systems approach can seem really very complicated, a wide-angled approach is required to sequence what needs to happen and prioritise our actions.
Dr Agnes Kalibata,President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), officially launched the ASSR 2021 report by echoing the important of nutritious food.
“Nutrition is one of our biggest challenges. There’s no continent better placed to feed its people the right food, but we just don’t know where to start when it comes to healthy eating. It’s impacting everyone, it’s costing us dollars.”
Africa cannot expand at the cost of the environment and natural resources. The cost of food is often discussed, but the true cost of food is not just monetary, it is counted in the cost to health and to the environment. Resilience is part of the solution.
Officially unveiling the report, Professor Joachim Von Braun, Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), said: “The AASR is here. We are standing on the launch pad and the rocket is to boost agriculture in Africa.”