This week the APPG visited the UN Food and Agriculture agencies in Rome (11th and 12th November 2014) to learn more about the role and work of the organisations in promoting smallholder agriculture, particularly in Africa.
Lord Cameron and Lord Boateng, together with Guy Poulter (NRI) and Lis Wallace (APPG Coordinator), had an action-packed agenda with meetings at the FAO, IFAD and WFP.
During their visit the delegation met with Josè Graziano da Silva, FAO Director General, Michel Mordasini, IFAD Vice-President and Ertharin Cousin, WFP Executive Director, as well as staff at all three agencies focusing on engagement with the private sector, climate resilience and adaptation, gender and nutrition.
In addition the delegation participated in a roundtable with members of the Africa Group, which included the Permanent Representatives from Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
There was a consensus throughout all the meetings that agriculture is an engine for growth and that smallholder farmers have the potential to move from subsistence to small-scale commercial farming if given the right support.
Recurring themes included the need to create an enabling environment and to ensure access to technologies and obtain inputs the increase productivity, building linkages to markets and infrastructure, investing in and disseminating research and best practice and investing in processing and value-addition. The fact that young people do not want to be involved in agriculture was repeatedly highlighted, emphasising the urgent need to mechanise and make agriculture profitable.
Lord Cameron and Lord Boateng underlined the need for governments and parliamentarians to promote investment and support for smallholder farmers and research and development.
Reflecting on the visit to Rome, Lord Cameron of Dillington said 'I was impressed by the overall focus of the UN Agencies on the social and economic importance of modernising African agriculture. There were two dominant themes that emerged from our discussions: firstly, that if we helped the private sector to create a more certain market for local agricultural produce then that would create sufficient pull to encourage farmers to grow to sell; and secondly, we have to find ways of encouraging the youth of Africa to be involved in the food chain – either as primary producers with small tractors or as entrepreneurs involved in local value-adding businesses.'