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Africa should build resilient food systems: President Mnangagwa

President Mnangagwa delivering a speech at AGRF

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called on Africans to focus their attention and responsibility towards shaping pathways and solutions to the challenges that confront the continent by building resilient agricultural food systems.

He made the remarks while opening the Plenary Session of the African Green Revolution Forum titled “Accelerating Food Systems in a time of Crisis” which was held in Kigali, Rwanda on 6 September 2022.

“I am privileged and honoured to address you today at the Opening Plenary Session of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF). The theme of the Plenary Session ‘Accelerating Food Systems in a Time of Crisis’ calls upon us to focus our attention and responsibility towards shaping pathways and solutions to the challenges that confront us a continent in building resilient agricultural food systems,” President Mnangagwa said.

He reiterated the fact that agriculture remains by far the single most important economic activity on the continent and its value to the economic growth of African countries is immeasurable. Over half of the continent’s inhabitants are subsistence farmers. In addition, agriculture provides employment for two-thirds of the continent’s working population and contributes on average between 30 to 60 percent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product and about 30 percent of total exports.

Agriculture is also a source of raw materials, not only for African industries but the world’s major economies. President Mnangagwa said this typically exemplifies the importance of agriculture in Africa and beyond. He said despite all its enumerated importance, African agriculture continues to face a myriad of challenges that threaten the sustainability of food systems and have the potential to leave the African continent vulnerable.

The President singled out climate change as the greatest threat to agricultural productivity on the continent. African countries continue to experience floods, droughts, high temperatures, and prolonged dry spells. in 2019, Zimbabwe suffered devastation from the effects of Cyclone Idai which destroyed infrastructure, killed many citizens, destroyed crops and livelihoods, and killed livestock.

The COP27 to be held in Egypt will afford Africans a platform to amplify the urgent need to address climate change. President Mnangagwa said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated a looming food crisis in Africa as a result of the rise in global prices of food, fuel, and fertilizer.

“This presents opportunities for the continent to be food-secure while building resilience and sustainability. This is Africa’s present-day challenge and our generation’s obligation.

“Despite the challenges we face as a continent, solutions abound on the horizon. Climate-proofing agriculture is an immediate solution to address the challenges of climate change. This can be achieved through the adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices such as conservation agriculture and irrigation development that help build adaptive capacity, enhance resilience, and increase agriculture production and productivity,” President Mnangagwa said.

Such practices will result in a significant increase in the total hectares of land under irrigation. In Zimbabwe, a Fertilize Import Substitution Strategy is being implemented and is envisaged to help the country’s quest to realise self-sufficiency in that respect.

To further augment and strengthen food systems, Zimbabwe is also supporting the production of traditional grains such as sorghum, millet, and groundnuts. Concurrently, the promotion of the nutrition aspects of traditional grains has been given greater impetus and support by Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Dr. Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Cook Out Competitions, which have become popular among women and the youths.

President Mnagangwa urged the continent to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to fill shortages and supply gaps brought about by national shortages. The AfCFTA is an important framework for facilitating intra-African trade in that regard. The President regretted the fact that Africa continues to import around US$45 billion worth of food annually from outside the continent and made a clarion call on stakeholders in the food chain on the continent to work extra hard to ensure food self-sufficiency.

He added that in order to develop and strengthen food systems in Africa, agriculture requires stakeholders to enhance equitable livelihoods by reducing the gender disparity in the ownership of resources and means of production between men and women.

Statistics indicate that about 62 percent of labour in African agriculture is provided by women as they do the bulk of work to produce, process, and market food.

“The continent’s potential to grow and develop agriculture lies with the empowerment and capacitation of women. To put it boldly and bluntly, there can be no success in agriculture without women,” President Mnangagwa said.

In 2014, the Malabo Declaration committed to accelerating agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods by 2025 as part of the roadmap to fulfill the African Union’s Agenda 2063. this was followed by the commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 in 2015.

These commitments should give the African continent the impetus to harmonise efforts, share experiences, and come up with joint solutions and ensure no country and no place is left behind.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende