Ensuring the future sustainability and affordability of food should be a matter of priority for the public and private sector in ACP countries, according to experts speaking in the sidelines of a recently held summit in Papua New Guinea. It is anticipated that 9 billion people will have to be fed by 2050, many of whom will come from developing countries already facing labour shortages, climate change risks, demographic shifts and migration away from rural areas. Michael Hailu, CTA Director, argued that for ACP countries in particular, this would mean that "agriculture must be transformed into a profitable business if it is to become a real engine for growth."
Sustainable agriculture: a key issue for the ACP Summit
The high-level panel on sustainable agriculture and food security was organised jointly by the ACP Secretariat and CTA at the 8th ACP Summit of Heads of State and Government in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. A key outcome of this event was to highlight the role of agriculture in the achievement of the SDGs), particularly the second SDG which calls for ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
A packed conference room of participants representing ACP Ministers and senior government officials, policymakers and representatives of international organisations engaged with the distinguished panel made up of Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia; Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Janet Sape, Executive Director of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Women in Business; Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International; and Pa'olelei Luteru, Ambassador of Samoa to Belgium and the European Union.
Agriculture at the heart of sustainable development in ACP countries
Constituting 79 countries across three continents, the ACP group represents a significant share of developing countries for whom agricultural is a key source of employment, nutritious food and part of the social fabric. Notwithstanding its importance, agrifood systems in ACP countries suffer from lack of investment, poor infrastructure, limited access to affordable technological resources and other inputs, vulnerability to climate change and high levels of exposure to commodity price fluctuations as they rely on the export of low value-added goods.
These are concerns directly addressed in SDG 2 whose five targets focus on food and nutrition security and agriculture, including agricultural productivity, small-scale food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment. Other SDGs address important aspects of food and agricultural issues, including women empowerment, post-harvest and food losses, access to land and regulation of fishing.
Transforming agriculture: an imperative that can be achieved
"Agriculture is a key sector for most of the ACP countries in terms of economic growth, employment and nutrition" noted ACP Assistant Secretary General, Henrique Banze, who made the opening remarks at the event. However, in order for it to contribute to sustainable development of ACP countries, to counter poverty, malnutrition and unemployment, agrifood systems would have to be significantly transformed. "By looking at the countries that have succeeded in transforming their sector, we can learn that agroindustry and agribusiness are clear avenues for inclusive growth," Banze went on to add. Transformation of the agricultural sector entailed greater support for ACP agribusiness development and private sector development, as the ACP group is already exploring strategies to advance agriculture and fisheries products, which can compete in local, regional and international markets.
"As a source of employment for the majority of ACP populations, agriculture is crucial to poverty reduction and sustainable development. With the large number of young women and men entering the labour market each year and not finding jobs easily, more efforts should be exerted to make agriculture attractive and remunerative for youth," emphasised Michael Hailu. He also proposed that achieving "this requires a mindset change among policymakers and farmers as well as a significant investment by the public and private sector".
Concurring was Janet Sape, Executive Director of PNG Women in Business, representing the private sector. She told the panel that "the lack of access to markets was among the biggest challenges for women in Papua New Guinea", and this has to be addressed with innovative financial services suited to the needs of producers. This led her to set up the PNG Women in Business Micro-Bank, providing a concrete example of successful grassroots interventions that can help empower local producers and agribusinesses.
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Articles published by online media
iWitness News “Agriculture increasingly important to ACP countries” by Kenton X. Chance, 30 May 2016
Pasifik “The World Risks Running Out Of Food: Expert” by Pita Ligaiula/PACNEWS, 1 June 2016