In today’s world of blurring borders, development knows no boundaries. By 2050, estimates show that there will be 10 billion people living on a planet increasingly grappling with urbanization, weakening food systems, and the dwindling of resources accelerated by climate change. These challenges present a wake-up call to the world to urgently ramp up coordinated and collaborative efforts in mitigating and reversing the trend.
The world may be running at a rapid pace but not fast enough to provide a food-secure planet. The recent rise in hunger, which reverses the gains of many years of efforts, sees the impacts of climate volatility, including droughts and floods, as a key driver. In Africa – where since the early 1990s the number of extreme-weather related disasters has doubled – 257 million people go to bed hungry. That’s 20 percent of the population. This is a continent where chronic undernourishment coexists with overweight, obesity and other forms of malnutrition.
Key to tackling hunger and ensuring access to good nutrition for all are Africa’s small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent people. But it is their ability to produce food and to derive an income that is most threatened by the impacts of climate change, conflict and economic downturn.
In Africa, considerable work still needs to be done to achieve Zero Hunger and to eradicate poverty. As stated in the flagship call of the Sustainable Development Goals—no one must be left behind. What this takes are partnerships ranging from governments to the private sector small-scale farmers and civil society.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is at the forefront of these global efforts. FAO sees the critical role of agriculture as the most inclusive tool to end hunger and poverty. FAO estimates that USD 140 billion additional annual investments in agriculture are needed to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030 globally, and the bulk of these investments should target sub-Saharan Africa.
Additionally, FAO highlights the role of sustainable mechanization as an important part of the solution. Relieving farmers of hard manual labor, particularly women, can transform small-scale farming to a more market-oriented business, improving labour productivity and helping farmers lift themselves out of poverty.
In terms of addressing the conflicts and instability, FAO sees that solutions can be addressed in political fora. Partners need to step up action to promote food security and tackle poverty. This can prevent a crisis, mitigate its impacts, and also pave the way for peace and stability.
The Organization also sees promising opportunities in the youth sector. In the Sub-Saharan region, 60% of the population of 1.2 billion is below the age of 25. This high number strains the already stressed job market, but can also be a source of opportunities in the agribusiness sector.
For example in the private sector, small and medium enterprises play a key role in food and agriculture, and can provide opportunities to young entrepreneurs of Africa. The youth can also leverage on technologies. Information and communication technology (ICT) help to connect small farmers to markets, reduce transaction costs, and mitigate risks while electronic-commerce promote a robust market environment. Partners need to scale up the creation of an enabling environment for private investment, and create opportunities for young and women entrepreneurs.
For decades, the Government of Japan has been a key FAO partner, working to build food security and promote the sustainable use of natural resources. A country that is regularly affected by natural disasters affecting food systems, Japan, together with other international development partners, has been at the forefront of development assistance.
This week, development partners and countries are in Japan to highlight the successes and challenges of Africa’s development. The Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD), launched in 1993 by the Government of Japan, promotes Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
As we explore together ways to intensify our joint efforts with African countries, FAO and Japan share the view that timely, well‑focused assistance is critical to protect and restore the agricultural livelihoods of crisis-affected people in Africa.
The writer is the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)