Tuesday, 31 May 2016

How CSOs Can Help Feed Africa

The African Development Bank's CSO Forum was held on 26-27 May 2016 in Lusaka. The forum was held during the AfDB Annual Meetings. It focused on three areas energy, agriculture and jobs for youth. Over the two days the bank and CSOs met to chart the way in which there can be better collaboration between the two. In an earlier post, I informed you what the main objectives of the forum were, I can report back to you on whether those objectives were met. I was in the agriculture session. Therefore, that is what this piece will focus on that as well as other issues that emerged from the forum.

Agriculture breakout session

 AfDB's President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in his address to the forum said that the bank was committed to strengthening CSO engagement. He also confirmed that the CSOs were needed in areas of advocacy. He further mentioned that Africa had so much potential for wealth creation. There were other speakers who addressed the forum such as Her Excellency Mary Robinson, founder of Africa2.0, Mamadou Toure and a representative for the CSOs came from the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC). Over the next two-day deliberations, CSOs and the bank engaged in various sessions.

In the agriculture session, there were some revealing statistics about the state of affairs of Africa's agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 25% of GDP in Africa and there are 33% of African children who live in chronic hunger. Africa also has a staggering food net import bill of $35.4 billion per annum. The statistics do not make great reading. AfDB has embarked on an ambitious initiative called Feed Africa, which seeks to take a commodity focused integrated approach. AfDB identified seven enablers that will make the Feed Africa possible- Increased productivity, realised value of increased production, increased investment in hard and soft infrastructure; finance expanded agriculture, improved agribusiness environment, increased inclusivity, sustainability, nutrition; and coordination. It is in these seven enablers that CSOs can find their roles to play.

Agriculture breakout session

AfDB recognises that strong partnership and collaboration with CSOs will make it possible to achieve agricultural transformation. CSOs also had the opportunity to present their concerns. There were concerns that research institutions did not want to work with subsistence farmers this is although subsistence farmers are the ones who feed Africa. CSOs also addressed the threat to indigenous seeds. The proposed agro-industrial parks by AfDB raised concerns among some CSOs that farmers would be denied access to land and other natural resources. It could also lead to some farmers being indebted.

On the second and final day of the forum it was great to hear what the agreeable plan was for agriculture. CSOs proposed that there was need for capacity building for all fields. It was important to exactly know what capacities are needed for farmers. AfDB together with CSOs need to identify what markets would help in the development of farmers. CSOs advised that there is a need to ensure all programmes and projects are demand driven and not multinational agenda driven. CSOs can ensure that improved nutrition goes hand in hand with improved livelihoods through agriculture. CSOs will also play a role in linkages, identifying opportunities and provide training for youth in agriculture. It was also important to provide land security for farmers as no one can invest in land that they know there is a possibility of being kicked out the next day.

It was an engaging two-day session at the CSO Forum. Both the AfDB and CSOs shared their challenges and expectations, which culminated in them arriving at a plan to move forward. The bank heard the concerns of the CSOs and it is hoped that they will take them on board. In the same vein, the CSOs heard the plans of the bank, and they should be open to collaborate and partner with them. However, as one participant stated that there have been too many meetings and conferences with nothing to show for it. Now is the time to begin implementation. Hopefully at the next CSO Forum, we shall be able to see the fruits of these sessions.

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