Ministers for Agriculture of the African Union Member States and their key partners have committed to ensure that effective social protection measures are in place to support food and nutrition security in Africa, alongside the critical measures already in place to contain the spread of COVID19. Their commitments and recommendations are articulated in the Declaration on food security and nutrition during the COVID 19 pandemic formulated and adopted during a virtual meeting on the impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition in Africa on 16 April 2020.
The High-Level Meeting was co-convened by The African Union Commission (AUC) Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The main objective of the forum was to open a dialogue with African Agricultural Ministers to identify actions to be undertaken to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on Africa’s already problematic food systems.
The meeting was attended by 40 African Ministers for Agriculture. Key partners including the AUC, FAO, the European Union, AUDA-NEPAD, The World Bank, African Development Bank and IFAD informed the meeting of the facilities they had put in place to support African governments manage the COVID19 pandemic and the associated socio-economic impacts. Mr Maximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist, briefed the Ministers on the global impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition.
The participants also recognized the urgent need for policies and strategies to mobilize and allocate adequate resources and to improve institutional capacities to accelerate the implementation of sustainable food and agriculture systems in an integrated and coordinated manner during this pandemic and beyond. Furthermore, the meeting recommended the establishment of a Task Force (comprising representatives of the African Union (AU), FAO, EU and other key UN agencies as well as financial institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank to facilitate monitoring of implementation and ensure resource mobilization for the declaration. The Task Force co-chaired by AU and FAO, will build on existing frameworks and initiatives to ensure strengthened and coordination action.
Mr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General, and Hon. Angela Thoko Didiza, Minister for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development of South Africa, in her capacity as Chair of the AU Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment, both delivered opening remarks. They highlighted the importance of ensuring food security and nutrition and continuation of agricultural activities, including production, marketing, harvesting, storage and value addition during the response to COVID-19.
Mr QU observed that safe food and nutrition was an essential part of the health response. He underlined that the fact that in the African context, the COVID-19 crises intertwines with food crises calls for a holistic approach to address the public health concerns and food security consideration in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. He called for urgent, strategic and coordinated action to ensure that disruptions in food supply chains were minimized as much as possible in the short-term, and to improve the resilience of agriculture production in the medium and long term. In his closing remarks, Mr QU reiterated FAO’s continued availability to work with countries, with focus on Africa, to support their implementation of food security and nutrition policies and programmes.
Hon. Angela Thoko Didiza emphasized the need to protect food value chains and the agricultural producers, as well as to ensure the continuation of agricultural activities and the social security for the vulnerable populations. Both Dongyu and Hon. Didiza appealed to all countries in Africa to ‘safeguard the collective implementation of all the commitments undertaken, thereby ensuring that the African continent responds with a unified voice to the global and unprecedented challenge of COVID19’.