AGRF 2021 to focus on partnerships, inclusivity and commitments in food systems resilience
In a critical year for food systems transformation, 140 distinguished delegates from the private sector, governments, civil society, media, and development partners gathered at the Sankara Hotel, Nairobi, for the AGRF 2021 Summit launch. More than 900 people joined virtually.
Rallying cries for accelerated action towards the AGRF’s 2021 themes of Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems were made by the Chair of AGRA and the AGRF Partners Group, H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn; Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Rwanda, Hon. Gerardine Mukeshimana; Managing Director of The Rockefeller Foundation William Asiko; Special Envoy on COVID-19 for the World Health Organization (WHO) David Nabarro, and many others.
It was widely agreed that Africa’s food systems are not working for all of its people and that the answers to future resilience lie in collaboration – specifically partnerships with and investment from private sector organizations; leadership commitments; and the elevation of the voices of children and youth.
At the launch, Tom Staal, Deputy Mission Director, USAID, said: “The upcoming AGRF 2021 Summit is a great opportunity for the private sector community to forge partnerships in the agriculture sector.
“The AGRF 2021 themes of Pathways to Recovery and Resilient Food Systems are right on point,” he added.
COVID-19 was also a key point of discussion, with many saying the pandemic was a catalyst for change, not the single cause of the recent rise in moderate and acute food insecurity globally.
“[The pandemic] is causing challenges and revealing weakness – including that food systems are not working as they should and highlighting the need for food systems transformation everywhere,” Special Envoy on COVID-19 for WHO, David Nabarro, said.
In a hard-hitting address, Jai Shroff, CEO of UPL Limited, empathized with Africa’s smallholder farmers, highlighted the serious threat of climate change, and brought to light the opportunities, not just the challenges, that lie ahead.
“UPL started in India; we understand the pain and challenges being faced by the smallholder farmer and food systems. We have this challenge of climate change; we have food prices at all-time high and commodity prices high – these are fantastic opportunities for farmers,” he said.
“Climate change is the single biggest risk the world is facing. Agriculture is one of the most important areas to reduce the impact – it can reduce the carbon from the atmosphere and plough it back into the soil,” he added.
All delegates agreed that with increased working capital – that will come in part from the de-risking of agriculture for private banks – agriculture can drive GDP growth and prove farming can be a business.
The President of AGRA, Dr Agnes Kalibata, stated: “Our continent lives on farming. 70% of our people are involved in agriculture. 60% of women are farming. Yet we are not making enough out of this. We need to make it a viable business.”
In a heartfelt statement, Senior Vice President of Africa Programs at Heifer International, Adesuwa Ifedi, said: “The next generation of farmers are not begging for job opportunities in agriculture. Agriculture in Africa is actually begging for their involvement to unleash its potential.”
Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia and AGRF Chair, H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn urged African youth to come forward and mobilize towards achieving resilient food systems, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the AGRF’s contributions to the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS).
“I invite all of you to join us in the campaign for agricultural and food systems transformation, and I hope you will all join us at the Summit 6-10 September. It is your participation and thought leadership that makes AGRF the leading Forum for our shared cause,” said H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn.