East Africa Needs to Cooperate to Reduce Food Insecurity, Resolve Conflicts: FAO Officials

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ENA  Februery 8/20202 East Africa needs to work together “in reducing food insecurity and resolving conflict through peace building,” FAO and IGAD officials said. 

Though the sub-region has experienced significant economic changes and livelihood improvement of millions of small-holder farmers in the past few decades, profound concerns remain over the deepening of food security situations where a significant number of the population, sometimes up to 50 percent, has been suffering from acute food shortage and high level of malnutrition, including stunting.

Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Food Security, Nutrition and Resilience Analysis Hub Coordinator, Abdi Jama, told ENA that reducing food insecurity and resolving  conflicts in the sub-region is crucial to improve the livelihood of stakeholders.

“Food security is really an important issue in the sub-region. It still gets a very large share of the food assistance in the world. Obviously, we all need to work together as IGAD member countries and partners to reduce food insecurity,” he stressed.

African heads of state and government have ratified the Malabo Declaration in June 2014, a remarkable set of concrete agriculture and food security and nutrition goals to end hunger by 2025.

Each country has agreed to allocate ten percent of their GDP for agriculture in the declaration, the coordinator said, adding that “ but that is something that we all have not achieved yet.”

Jama notes that as charity basically begins at home the member countries need to invest in agriculture development, among other things.

“Food security is now not about just food production; it is about markets, it’s about value addition, it is about reducing harvest losses,” he said, So “I believe that the most important thing is to look at all the value chain in order to resolve the problem of the food security in the sub-region.”

FAO Sub-region Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to AU and UNECA, Chimimba David Phiri said on his part “there is a lot of work to do if we’re going to reach food security.”

Low productivity in agriculture, climate change, drought, floods and conflicts, among others, are the factors that lead the sub-region to food insecurity.

Noting that about 28 million people needed food assistance even before the invasion of the desert locust, Phiri said all stakeholders should play their role, particularly “in improving agricultural development and resolving conflicts through peace building.”

Recalling the Nobel Peace Prize awarded for PM Abiy for his efforts to restore peace and stability between Ethiopia and Eritrea, he said “I think if more leaders do this with emphasis on peace, it will be possible to ensure food security in the region.”

“We need to find solutions to the problems that we have to ensure the food security in the eastern Africa,” he added.

FAO Country Representative in South Sudan, Meshack Malo, said East African countries have quite a lot that “we need focus on in order to enhance food security.”

He stated that “It is important that we look at various things that could enable our region to exit out of food aid. When we look at the land, when we look at the water resources, and when we look at the people; we are in opposition. God has placed us in a position that can we produce enough food.”

The cooperation of East African countries is, however, very important to enhance food security and control the current desert locust that threatens for food security in the region.

FAO Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department Assistant Director-General, Bukar Tijani said East Africa has plenty livestock production, pastoralists, and can export to other regions in Africa, Middle East and other places.

“The sub-region shares the very similar climatic condition which will require partnership and coming together by the countries to ensure food security in the region,” he noted.

He added that FAO has been working with IGAD on food and nutrition security.

“For us, as FAO, we assist in convening many meetings and also to see how best we can assist policy dialogue in a sense to achieve sustainable development goals.”

The director-general pointed out that FAO is also instrumental for the region which assisted Malabo Declaration and CAADP. “We are real partners with the East African countries specifically in the effort to attain food security.”