The African Development Bank (AfDB) joined the rest of the global community in marking the World Food Day. At the Bank the event was marked by the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department (OSAN) on 16 October 2015. The aim of the event was to sensitize the department and the bank at large on the causes and implications of hunger, and the role that different actors can play to address this. This year’s global theme is Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty. On the panel to enrich the discussion was the Ethiopian ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Her Excellency Yeshimebrat Mersha, OSAN Director Chiji Ojukwu, Senior Advisor to the AfDB Operations Sector Vice President (OSVP), Jallow Sering, AfDB’s Executive Director for Nordic countries and India, Heikki Tuunanen, and the Ag. Director of the Human Development Department, Sunita Pitamber.
“There is enough food in the world but not enough food for everyone,” said Chiji Ojukwu in his opening remarks. Why is this the case in a resource-rich continent such as Africa? A large percentage of the world’s yet to be cultivated arable land is in Africa, coupled with adequate water resources and a vibrant young population. “One of the answers to this is to consider ‘rural poverty’ not only as material and financial poverty, but perhaps poverty in skills, knowledge and experience that are plaguing Africa’s food security,” said the panelists. “We always have a glut during harvest time and famine soon after with factors such as poor planning, poor storage technologies and lack of know-how on the use of agricultural inputs contributing to this ‘famine'.”
“Development and getting out of food insecurity is not complicated. It is about setting up a conducive environment and providing the right support,” said Heikki, citing examples of the quantum leaps made by Ethiopia through its Growth Transformation Plan (GTP1) and by India through the Green Revolution.
Feeding Africa is one of the Bank’s corporate priorities for the next 10 years. “Our strategy is to focus on investing in agricultural infrastructure, farmer education and commercialization of SMEs in agriculture and championing youth in agribusiness,“ said Vice President (OIVP) Solomon Asamoah in a speech read on behalf of the President of the Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.
Chiji’s remarks aptly summed up the discussion. “We need a multi-sectoral approach to the challenge. We need investment in agriculture with various sectors supporting the cause – education, infrastructure, health, technology, energy and markets. It has to be a concerted effort from all actors in order for us to realize tangible growth.”