AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security PanelOn Thursday 23rd October the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development, together with the African Smallholders Farmer Group, hosted an event to celebrate the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security. We were delighted to host a distinguished panel.

In her keynote speech Her Excellency Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for the Rural Economy and Agriculture, said that ‘Small is beautiful, but as long as it grows… Smallholder farmers are central to Africa’s agricultural transformation.’

The Commissioner reflected on the successes of CAADP in raising the profile of agriculture on the development agenda both for national governments and for donors. As a result of CAADP agricultural expenditure in Africa has doubled, however, countries are still falling short of their commitment made in Maputo in 2003 when governments committed spending at least 10% of their national budgets on agriculture.

Looking ahead to the next 10 years and the Malabo Declaration, the Commissioner explained that governments have prioritised: ‘A modernised agricultural food sector, which is productive, competitive, profitable, rewarding and therefore attractive, especially to women and youth. Putting the emphasis on generating knowledge and technologies. Securing access to and rights over land, especially for smallholders and women. A future of agri-food systems organised as a viable business that contributes to economy-wide transformation agenda by developing agro-processing, agro-industries and agribusinesses. Resilient production and livelihood systems with adequate capacity to mitigate and adapt to shocks. We want a future where Africa harnesses its immense potential, including markets and the abundance of natural resources to drive agricultural transformation and improve nutrition.’

Translating the Malabo Declaration into action the Commissioner said she wanted to see sustained commitment from African leaders and strengthened alignment between the priorities of national governments and the priorities of donors.

David Kennedy, Director General for Economic Development at DFID said, ‘Going forward I want agriculture to be central to the broader economic development approach that DFID are currently working on.’ Talking about CAADP and the Malabo Declaration, David Kennedy emphasised the important role of governments and country ownership, which DFID wants to see strengthened. With this support ‘a potentially exciting and transformational story can be unlocked.’

David Adama, coordinator for public financing at ActionAid International, talked about the key role of the Non-State Actor Group (NSA) and civil society in Africa in holding governments to account. Key messages to agricultural ministers in Malabo included the need to improve the quality of agriculture spending, sensitivity to smallholders, agro-ecology, local needs to be prioritised in investment and inclusive decision-making that takes into account smallholder farmers. David Adama stressed the importance of investing in women and eliminating the gender gap in agriculture.

Reflecting on the event, Lord Cameron of Dillington said, 'It was hugely encouraging to hear the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture spell out the vision which emerged from the AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security, along with the practical steps involved in turning that vision into reality. It was also good to hear David Kennedy articulate a sound understanding by DFID of the importance of agriculture in their development agenda. It was a lively meeting with penetrating participation from both the parliamentary and outside audiences.'

More detailed information and the keynote speeches at this event can be found here.