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Africa assured food security

afrol News, 4 June - An unprecedented partnership by key players in agricultural development have formed a partnership to significantly boost food production in Africa's "foodbasket" regions, assuring food security on the continent.

The key players - the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and World Food Programme (WFP) - used the FAO High-level conference on World Food Security in Rome to sign a memorandum of understanding, pledging commitment to address Africa's food crisis.

The partnership will also link local food production to food needs and work across Africa's major agricultural growing areas so as to create opportunities for smallholder farmers. It marks a significant transformation in the way major global agencies work with smallholder farmers to assist them in solving Africa's chronic hunger and food problems.

Poorly developed markets, lack of investment, and poor infrastructure in rural areas are among the major problems facing accelerated food production in Africa. These the problems, experts are convinced that there exist opportunities that can be tapped to help end chronic hunger and food problems.

The new partnership said its mission is to make a difference now by optimizing food production in "breadbasket areas" or those with relatively good rainfall, soils, infrastructure, and markets. It will work closely with other stakeholders in these breadbasket areas to rapidly improve food production, food security and rural incomes.

The partnership agreement goes beyond calling for coordination and sharing of agricultural development innovations across ecological zones and associated crops, for it also seeks to support the efforts of governments, work with farmers and other stakeholders to rapidly boost agricultural productivity and farm incomes. Each agency will deliver unique expertise towards achieving an environmentally and economically sustainable green revolution that will end the continent's perennial food crisis.

"This collaborative initiative is part of AGRA's strategic vision to build partnerships that pool the strengths and resources of the public and private sectors, civil society, farmers organizations, donors, scientists and entrepreneurs across the agricultural value chain," said Mr. Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Board of AGRA.

"We must implement immediate solutions for today's crisis and do so in the context of a long-term concerted effort to transform smallholder agriculture, to increase productivity and sustainability, and to end poverty and hunger."

The rapid decline of food production in Africa has left more than 200 million in hunger, resulting to malnourishment of the region's 33 million children under five. Experts said more needs to be urgently done to raise agricultural productivity. This includes more investments to improve soil and water management of rainfed and irrigation agriculture.

"Unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa is a huge challenge, but it can be done," FAO Director-General Mr. Jacques Diouf said, describing the initiative as "an important contribution to reduce the number of more than 200 million hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa by boosting food production and productivity, and improving the livelihoods of millions of people in rural areas. FAO will actively participate in this important initiative by assisting in stimulating local food production, providing technical input, and developing new agricultural investments."

Mr Annan said the initiative hopes to "spur a green revolution in Africa which respects biodiversity and the continent's distinct regions and great variety of crops—from millet and sorghum in the Sahel, to the root and tuber belts that cut across humid West Africa, to maize in the high and lowland areas of Eastern and Southern Africa."

IFAD President Mr. Lennart Båge said also assured his organization's commitment to help lift the rural poor from poverty by expanding their production capacity, strengthening their institutions and voice as well as improving their access to critical markets.

WFP has promised to use its purchasing power to contribute to a green revolution in Africa and to market development - a powerful incentive for agricultural production.

"WFP is delighted to work with AGRA, a critical player who will help stimulate agriculture production," said Josette Sheeran, WFP's Executive Director. "Together with FAO and IFAD, we can bring major improvements to the lives of small-scale producers and food- insecure farmers all across Africa, and help reduce hunger and vulnerability."

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