Agriculture can greatly contribute toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that seek to end poverty, hunger, inequality and injustice as well as tackle climate change, experts said, calling for more governments’ intervention.
The experts were speaking on Monday during a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) regional workshop under the theme: “Towards productive, sustainable and inclusive agriculture, forestry and fisheries in support to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The three-day- event (from September 19-21) is taking place in Kigali.
UN member states last year adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The objective of the workshop is to discuss how the principles for sustainable food and agriculture can promote joint action to improve the contribution of agriculture, forestry and fisheries toward sustainable development, and to identify priorities for FAO’s support at national and regional levels.
Talking about the linkage between agriculture and the Global Goals, Jean-Marc Faurès, the FAO’s Senior Programme Officer for Coordination of Sustainable Food and Agriculture, stressed the importance of agriculture in poverty reduction and ending hunger.
“Because agriculture is so important to achieve SDGs, countries have to strengthen their engagement in agriculture in their national development strategies,” he said.
The initiative focuses on enhancing production, improving access to markets, and reducing post-harvest losses, with special consideration for gender, youth, governance and climate change.
The Minister for Agriculture, Dr Geraldine Mukeshimana, said Rwanda’s agriculture programmes are in line with the SGGs, adding that the government is updating agriculture policies to better reflect the Global Goals, which are largely about the welfare of the people.
“We are including new elements such as climate change issues, good nutrition, job creation among the youth and women, and we see agriculture not only as a subsistence means of living,” she said.
“We look at agriculture as a business because it starts from growing and harvesting crops, then move to trading, value addition and along the chain, everyone interested in agriculture get a job,” she said.
Ending hunger by 2025
Under the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, African Heads of State and Government committed to end hunger by 2025.
To achieve this, they resolved to accelerate agricultural growth by at least doubling agricultural productivity levels and to halve levels of post-harvest losses by the year 2025.
Clayton Campanhola, Strategic Programme Leader for Sustainable Agriculture Programme at FAO, said the pledge is a huge challenge, given such challenges as growing population, poverty, inequality, hunger and malnutrition as well as impact of climate change.
To address these challenges, he said, agriculture production is key since it provides food, decent employment, and income for the rural population.
“Sustainable intensification is something that embeds not only production, but also social and environmental aspects. Crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry, all should be integrated,” he added.
Beth S. Crawford, Regional Strategic Programme Coordinator at FAO, said the organisation is also involved in building resilience in Africa, which looks at droughts, floods, irregular weather patterns and how countries can be best prepared to withstand challenges that undermine agriculture development.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), some 795 million people – meaning about one in each group of nine people - in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.
And, the vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger as one person in four (or 23.2 per cent of the population), was estimated to be undernourished in 2014–16, according to FAO.
FAO estimates that 233 million people in Africa were hungry/undernourished in 2014.
The workshop was to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda, and identify priorities for action in the context of FAO’s Regional Initiative 2 (RI2) on “Sustainable Intensification of Production and Value Chains Development in Africa”.
The initiative focuses on nine countries namely Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia. The workshop attracted about 40 senior government officials from these countries.