Saturday, March 24, 2018


Agri will be employment generator in Africa, but looking beyond must
Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but opportunities should be explored beyond agriculture throughout the food chain in order to create enough jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas. This was stated by José Graziano da Silva, director general, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the United Nations (UN) agency’s Regional Conference for Africa.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces the linkages between rural areas and cities,” he added at the conference, which is primarily dedicated to the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the continent, the world’s youngest in terms of the average age of its population.

This includes processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services.

Estimates suggested that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years. Today, about 54 per cent of Africa’s working force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

With more people moving to cities, the demand on urban food markets will grow, which, in turn, can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believed that more needed to be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.

Graziano da Silva pointed to Youth Employment: Enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs, FAO's regional programme, which goes beyond farm jobs and seeks to develop capacity and scale up successful approaches through programme formulation and partnerships.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” he added.

He, however, warned that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” the FAO chief said, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers, can link public food purchase to family farmers’ production.

Hunger, overweight and obesity
Achieving Zero Hunger remains FAO’s highest priority, one that it shares with African leaders who, through the Malabo Declaration, have committed to eradicating chronic undernourishment in their continent by 2025 - in sub-Saharan Africa, almost one person in four currently suffers from undernourishment.

In his address, Graziano da Silva underscored that in line with Sustainable Development Goal 2, achieving Zero Hunger needs to go together with ending all forms of malnutrition, a consequence of which is the current global overweight and obesity epidemic. 

“The situation is also worrisome here in Africa,” he added, citing a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that obesity-related diseases may become the biggest killer in Africa by 2030.

“Rapid urbanisation and consumption of highly-processed foods are the major drivers behind the increase in overweight and obesity. Yet many people in Africa are unaware that certain foods are unhealthy, or that being overweight presents a health risk,” the FAO director general said.

He urged for the need to act on two fronts focusing on both the production and consumption of healthy food, and called for ensuring more responsible advertising and information campaigns on food products.

“People must be aware about the pros and cons of what they are eating, and also be encouraged to eat healthy food,” Graziano da Silva added.

FAO assists countries on climate change
The FAO director general also referred to climate change and other pressing issues in Africa and how FAO, together with its partners, was addressing them.

FAO is working closely with a wide range of countries around the world that have formally requested the organization's assistance to tap into financing from the Green Climate Fund.

In Africa to date, FAO is currently supporting the development of six full project proposals - in Benin, Gambia, Kenya, the Republic of Congo and Tanzania - several other readiness proposals.

More funds needed to tackle Fall Armyworm
“Africa is particularly affected and vulnerable to climate change, which is contributing to increasing outbreaks of pests and diseases, with Fall Armyworm - which was first reported on the continent in 2016 and has now spread rapidly to almost all Sub-Saharan countries - being a case in point,” Graziano da Silva said.

Fall Armyworm - whose moths can fly up to 100km per night - primarily affects maize, as well as rice, sorghum and some vegetables.

FAO has been on the front line in responding to the Fall Armyworm threat and recently launched a step-by-step guide for farmers on how to deal with this trans-boundary pest.

The agency has also developed a mobile app called FAMEWS, which allows farmers to detect, monitor and track the spread of Fall Armyworm directly in their fields. FAMEWS is already being used in Madagascar, South Africa and Zambia, and will be deployed in the rest of Africa by the end of February.

“Endorsed by the African Union, the FAO Programme for Action on Fall Armyworm, aims to leverage much-needed funding,” Graziano da Silva said, adding, “So far we have raised $13 million. FAO has contributed to $10 million from its own budget. But we need much more.”
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