President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made a compelling case last week Wednesday for the United States to back the institution’s US$1.5billion emergency food production plan. The plan seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Bank chief, and a panel of witnesses, testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programmes. Among others, senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) participated in the hearing.
Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding. “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe,” he said. Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.
Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will result in the rapid production of 38 million tonnes of food across Africa over the next two years. “The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.
The plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers. With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tonnes of food, especially wheat, maize and soybeans imported from the two countries.
An African Emergency Food Production Plan
Adesina said the African Development Bank will invest US$1.3billion into the plan’s implementation. He called on the US to make up the funding balance. “With US support to reduce the US$200million financing gap - we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors for approval.
Also providing testimony were David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organisation Mercy Corps.
McKenna said: “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade”. She cited the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
“A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade,” warned Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps.
Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before onset of the pandemic. “Covid comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
Adesina emphasised that the African Development Bank’s food production plan will foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories. “One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said
The Bank president said the Bank is setting up meetings with international fertiliser companies to discuss ways of ensuring that African farmers continue having access to such inputs. “If we don’t solve the fertiliser problem, we cannot solve the food problem.”
According to Adesina, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity. “The initiative will drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world,” he said.