Europe urged to increase agriculture aid to Africa

18:36, October 27, 2010      

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Leading experts say time is ripe for Europe to accelerate agriculture aid to Africa or miss a rare opportunity to help transform food security across the continent.

According to a new report released late Wednesday by a panel of European and African development experts, EU donors were also challenged to match rhetoric with action as Africa focuses on the farm sector and investors outside of Europe take notice "Today, European aid to Africa can be especially productive because it can support emerging strategies already owned, operated and driven by Africans, which is a relatively novel situation in the history of European-African relations," said Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive and Head of Diplomatic Mission, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) .

The report says a dangerous gap between Europe's bold rhetoric pledging billions to aid African agriculture and a reality that has failed to channel new investments to promising projects, risks squandering a rare opportunity to transform food production across the continent.

The analysis from the Montpellier Panel notes that the commitment at a 2009 G8 summit to dramatically escalate the fight against malnutrition in Africa has yet to bring critically needed support for a "rich diversity" of activities already underway that "could achieve food and nutrition security through agricultural development." "If we do not bridge the gap there is risk that new investments will dissipate into more small scale activity and we will not see transformational change that is needed," the report says.

The panel is particularly concerned that European donors have not used their influence and abilities to create a safety net.

A system of grain reserves, for example, could prevent another round of price shocks to commodities markets from spreading malnutrition to millions more Africans, as they did in 2007 and 2008. "We want to see European donors paying closer attention to immediate threats to food security, while simultaneously increasing support for African-led efforts that for the first time in generations show that African governments are determined to literally grow their way towards health and prosperity," said Sir Gordon Conway of Imperial College London, who chaired the panel.

The report, Africa and Europe: Partnerships for Agricultural Development, The Montpellier Panel, is focused on the follow- through, and lack thereof, from the 2009 L'Aquila G8 summit in which wealthy governments in Europe and the United States pledged 22.5 billion U. S. dollars to seek food security worldwide, with much of the funds to be spent on agriculture development in sub- Saharan Africa.

The analysis presents a situation in Africa in which investments are needed to address the extreme perils and exploit the extraordinary opportunities that today exist side by side.

On one hand, the nutrition challenges are profound. Some 337 million Africans consume less than 2,100 calories a day, and 200 million are chronically malnourished.

An astounding 50 percent of children are stunted and in Sub- Saharan Africa, nearly half of all pregnant women in the region and 40 percent of women of child-bearing age suffer from anemia.

Every minute, 12 Africans die from poor nutrition. On the other hand, 22 African governments have signed on to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which commits signatories to investing 10 percent of national budgets toward improved food production.

And they increasingly have the means to do so. GDP is now rising in 27 of Africa's 30 largest countries.

Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Senegal are among the countries where agriculture spending already has a reached or exceeded the 10 percent threshold.

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