Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary Vera Songwe, has met with the principals of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and agreed to work closely with them in a number of areas, including statistics as they seek to address food insecurities on the African continent.
The four leaders agreed to strengthen their relationship so they can effectively deal with food security issues on the continent, with more focus and emphasis being put on areas such as statistics, policy development and land with a view to improving agricultural productivity.
The meeting is an acknowledgment that the three United Nations Rome-based agencies offer a vast range of knowledge, financial and technical expertise on issues related to food security, agriculture and nutrition while the ECA on the other hand also has a comparative advantage of a broad knowledge base in discharging its mandate of promoting the economic and social development of its member States, fostering intra-reginal integration and international cooperation for Africa’s development.
Ms. Songwe gave the assurance that the ECA was ready to deepen its collaboration with the three organizations, adding that the fact that the leaders of the Rome-based UN agencies were in Ethiopia at the same time was a strong indication of how important the issue of food security on the continent was to them.
“Under one roof, we have combined knowledge on climate change, food security, and conflict. These issues are relevant for the challenges we face such as migration must be tackled in a comprehensive way,” she said. “We have been collaborating already with the three agencies and there’s a lot that can be done if we pull our resources together.
” Ms. Songwe also said the ECA was ready to contribute to the partnership on the policy side and training in particular as the organizations work together in their quest to achieve zero hunger on the continent. She also emphasized the need for data and statistics to help guide agriculture and land policy, adding this was crucial for the gender agenda and to crowd in private investment.
“This is a great example of how we can work together and move forward as one UN with one goal as we talk about peace, security, development and the sustainable development goals,” she added. On his part, WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, said achieving food security was of utmost importance to Africa. “Africa has got a lot of problems, but there are also a lot of successes,” he said, citing Ethiopia as a country with both great successes and great challenges. He said it was sad that over 10 million people on the continent face hunger on a daily basis in Africa.
“If we are going to see zero hunger by 2030, which will not happen – it’s an absolute impossibility with wars and man-made conflicts – because 80 percent of our funding now is in war zones and that distracts funding from sustainable development,” said Mr.beasley over dependence on crude oil over the years, the nation’s rank has dipped. According to him, Nigeria’s seventh position is unfavourable to the economic growth of the nation.
The president aligned with the stakeholders to identify issues bedevilling the industry so plans can be drawn up to drive all-round growth of the sector. His words: “The sector has suffered neglect as a result of over reliance on crude oil. This led to decline in the country’s annual production from 420 metric tonnes in the 60s to 192,000 metric tonnes in 2015.
“Therefore, this summit aligns with this administration’s agricultural revolution with Cocoa as one of the main drivers.” Statistically, cocoa is the second largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil and has generated over two million jobs directly and indirectly along its value chain.
Previously, Nigeria occupied the number four spot in the world behind Indonesia, Ghana and Ivory Coast. But it has dropped to seventh due to poor commitment to boost the industry, lack of quality inputs for farmers and the inability to attract investors.
Speaking at the event, the President, Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), Sayina Riman, said the summit’s aim is to strategise a clear path to revitalise the cocoa industry.
“Through the summit, our goal as an association is to come up with a five year strategic plan that would deepen public private partnerships, (PPP), in the industry to attract investors.” Also speaking, the Executive Director, International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, emphasised the importance of having a proper cocoa plan, which is crucial to reposition Nigeria back as a powerhouse in cocoa production.
“Nigeria has the potential to play a leading role in cocoa production in Africa. But it needs to draft a solid cocoa plan, strengthen and support the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria and other research agencies to develop innovations and technologies to advance its Cocoa sector,” he said. Some cocoa farmers who also spoke at the event, decried the broken value chain in the sub-sector especially in the area of supply, and the availability of quality inputs.
They hope through the Summit’s deliberations, which had key stakeholders in the sector in attendance, all the challenges raised will be noted and proper action taken to solve them as only talking will achieve nothing.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, stated that the price of cocoa in the international market should be determined by African farmers.
He decried the situation whereby Africa’s cocoa farmer and at the mercy of Europe in terms of price control, insisting that they should determine what the price of the farm produce would be in the light of Africa’s contribution to global cocoa yield standing at 70 per cent
. He said: “Africans produce up to 70 per cent of the cocoa that is needed globally, yet the price is not determined by Africans but by Europe, where the crop is not produced.
They should break this disparity between the cocoa farmers in Africa and those buying in Europe. “If you produce something, you should be able to determine the price, but cocoa is not like that. And for a region producing about 70 per cent of the global consumption and yet you don’t have a say on the price.
“The price is being determined at the New York Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange. I don’t think that is morally fair to the producers. I don’t think the principle of fairness and equity is in that at all.
“If they say cocoa price today is $2,000 per tonne because of market forces; that is what it’s going to be. If by tomorrow, they say it is $1,000; that is what it is going to be.
What is important is for all the farmers to be considered in determining the price. This is beyond Nigeria now.”
Stakeholders are optimistic that the forum will address the problems in cocoa industry.
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