New Telegraph

‘Combined Efforts Required to Unlock Africa’s Agriculture Potential’

The Managing Director, CGIAR, Dr Ismahane Elouafi, has said that unified effort is needed to equip food systems to advance human and planetary health as Africa is confronting an unprecedent- ed food crisis. Estimates show that nearly 282 million people on the continent or 20 per cent of the population, are undernourished. Elouafi explained that numerous challenges across the African continent threatened the race to achieve food security; thus, research and innovative strategies are urgently needed to transform current systems as they are inadequate to address the food crisis.

He stated this during her inaugural field visit to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) center in Ibadan, Oyo State, alongside Dr. Simeon Ehui, IITA’s Director General and CGIAR Regional Director for Continental Africa. Elouafi, who is named one of the most influential Afri- cans of 2023, stressed the need to use science and innovation to unlock Africa’s potential to meet its food needs. At the IITA inaugural field visit, she oversaw extensive discussions on transforming food systems and leveraging science and technology. Elouafi said: “At COP28 in Dubai, UAE, there was high-level recognition and a winning spotlight on science and innovation. CGIAR has an opportunity to represent science and innovation at large, representing the whole community at large.

We can cut down poverty and stop malnutrition, and we have the tools–we just need to bring them to the farmers.” She stated that CGIAR continued to create linkages between agricultural and tech stakeholders, emphasising digital innovation for agricultural development. “CGIAR-IITA explores leveraging ICTs to tackle agricultural challenges, boost productivity, ensure sustainability, and enhance food security, featuring presentations, discussions, workshops, and networking across sectors.

“There was a significant focus on the CGIAR TAAT model as a tool to use technology to address Africa’s worsening food crisis.” While speaking on Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), the CGIAR boss stressed that it was a key flagship programme of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategy for 2016 to 2025. “We have the technology, and all hands are on deck to ensure that no one sleeps hungry. There are severe food insecurities on the continent today, deepening rural poverty and malnutrition. We have the capacity to achieve food security,” she emphasised.

Elouafi stressed the need to ensure that technology is in the hands of farmers in line with TAAT, which aims to double crop, livestock, and fish productivity by expanding access to productivity-increasing technologies to more than 40 million smallholder farmers across Africa by 2025. In addition, TAAT seeks to generate an additional 120 million metric tons. Elouafi noted that the needs were great, in particular, eliminating extreme poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, turning Africa into a net food exporter, and positioning Africa at the top of the agricultural value chains.

She emphasised the need to leverage progress made thus far, building on the commitments of Dakar 1, the first Summit of the World’s Regions on Food Security held in Dakar in January 2010, where representatives and associations of regional governments from the five continents noted that the commitments made at the World Food Summit in 2002 had had little effect and that the food crisis had only worsened. Elouafi said the UN Food System Summit in 2021 and the 2023 Dakar 2 Summit, with an emphasis on building sustainable food systems and aligning government resources, development partners, and private sector financing to unleash Africa’s food production potential, were important meetings to build on.

The commitments made at these high-level meetings had already created a pathway towards ending hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition and transforming food systems to meet the most pressing food needs today. It is estimated that Africa’s agricultural output could increase from $280 billion per year to $1 trillion by 2030. The visit and ensuing discussions highlighted how investing in raising agricultural productivity, supporting infrastructure, and climate-smart agricultural systems, with private sector investments, government support, and resources from multinational financial institutions, all along the food value chain, can help turn Africa into a breadbasket for the world. Private sector actors will be particularly urged to commit to the development of critical value chains.

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