30th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa
Sustainable development of agriculture and food systems in Africa
Improving the means of production and the creation of decent and attractive employment for youth
The 30th FAO Regional Conference for Africa will be held at the Friendship Hall from 19 to 23 February 2018.
Jointly hosted by the Government of Sudan and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Conference is expected to be attended by ministers and other high-level delegates from FAO Member States, partners, representatives of Civil Society Organizations in Africa, and the media.
The Conference begins with a Senior Officers’ Meeting from 19 to 21 February 2018, followed by a Ministerial Plenary Session on 22 and 23 February 2018. The inaugural ceremony of the Ministerial Session will take place on 22 February 2018. There will also be Thematic Side Events on 21 February 2018.
Senior Officers’ Meeting
The Conference will begin with a Senior Officers’ Meeting with the following regional and global policy and regulatory matters for discussion:
State of Food and Agriculture in Africa: Future Prospects and Emerging Issues
Climate Change and its impact on the work and activities of FAO: Building resilience to address extreme vulnerability of Africa’s agriculture and rural livelihoods
Leveraging Youth Employment Opportunities in Agriculture and Rural Sectors in Africa
Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Outcomes of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and follow up actions at regional and country level
Progress made on the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States and on FAO’s Inter-Regional Initiative on SIDS: Case of Atlantic and Indian Ocean SIDS
In addition, the Meeting will also discuss the Work Programme, Budget, Decentralization process, the multi-year programme of work of the Regional Conference, and other matters.
Ministerial Round Table
The Ministerial Round Table on 22 to 23 February 2018 will address i) the SDG 2030 Agenda: Delivering Sustainable Agriculture Growth and Rural Transformation in Africa and ii) Zero Hunger. A session will be held to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of FAO country Representations, and finally a session will provide an opportunity for synthesis of main findings and recommendations.
The side events on 21 February 2018 cover the following:
FAO Strategic Programmes
Renewing Commitment to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF)
Responding to crisis in the Lake Chad region – partnerships for resilient livelihoods
Migration and rural development
The regional consultation of Civil Society Organizations, preceding the Conference, took place on 22 to 23 January 2018 in Khartoum.
The full List of Documents for the Conference is available here.
State of Food and Agriculture in Africa: Future Prospects and Emerging Issues
The prevalence of undernourishment has seen little improvement since 2010 and the most recent estimates suggest a rise. The worsening situation is due to adverse climatic conditions, conflict and a difficult global economic environment. Looking forward, rapid population growth will add to the challenge of meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 in Sub-Saharan Africa in the coming decades. Food production would need to increase considerably to meet rising demand, while climate change will exacerbate existing challenges. Addressing the root causes of migration and improving earning opportunities in rural areas is essential to fighting hunger and malnutrition.
At the same time, population and income growth, as well as migration, offer opportunities for the growth of domestic agriculture and agribusiness if farmers and entrepreneurs can respond to demand growth and shifts in consumer tastes. Exploiting opportunities will require investment in research and development to support sustainable intensification and investment in public goods that facilitate private investment across the entire value chain. Raising agriculture expenditure is important while the prioritizing of spending is just as important. An enabling regulatory environment will foster private investments and, combined with strategic public investments, will improve the functioning of markets and facilitate trade.
Population growth, migration, urbanization and income growth: Rrising and changing food demand
Some of the greatest challenges to eliminating poverty and hunger facing Sub-Saharan Africa derive from the rapid population growth and the changing demographic structure that the continent will face over the next decades. Between now and 2050 the population in the region will grow from 969 million in 2015 to 2 168 million in 2050.
The rise in population and growth in GDP per capita will drive significant growth in demand for agricultural products. In response, the agricultural output would need to more than double by 2050 to meet increasing demand. Overall the agriculture and agribusiness markets are estimated to grow from USD 313 billion today to about USD 1 trillion in 2030.
Demographic shifts, structural transformation and rural out-migration and urbanization are leading to changes in food systems in the region, and pose new challenges to traditional means of improving food security and nutrition. Migration is inherent to structural transformation and part of the process of development. However, rural-urban migration is not the only reality and most of the migration in Sub-Saharan Africa is rural-rural.
Not only will demand for food expand significantly, but, with rising incomes, lifestyle changes and greater female participation in the workforce, also the composition of diets will change substantially. There will be a disproportionate rise in consumption of non-grain products, such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, milk, and edible oils, compared with coarse grains, root crops and legumes.
There will also be a significant shift in the type and quality of products demanded. For example, premium rice makes up 30 percent of total rice consumption in rural areas, but 70 percent in urban areas. In addition, there will also emerge a greater reliance on processed foods that provide convenience through easy transport, storage and preparation. The demand for packaged food is also growing.
This growth and change in demand is also an opportunity for the continent. Evidence shows that although the balance of trade in agricultural products has worsened for Sub-Saharan Africa, domestic production has met most of the increase in demand over the past 50-60 years. On average, only about 10 percent of food consumed on the continent is imported, although that figure is on the rise and is much higher for some countries. The transformation of the food system provides opportunities to farmers and agribusiness to expand and diversify their activities (see section IV). Taking advantage of the coming opportunities will be particularly important for 330 million youth who will join the labour force in the next 15 years.
For example, migration can translate into reduced pressure on local labour markets and increased wages in agriculture, while remittances can relax liquidity constraints and provide insurance in case of shocks. In the longer term, migrants' remittances and diaspora investments, as well as acquired skills, knowledge and social network can have a profound impact on rural areas in terms of food security, nutrition and investments in agriculture and non-agricultural activities.
However, there are also challenges inherent in the transformation. Smallholder farmers, and in particular women farmers, face constraints in access to finance, markets and transport, as well as barriers created by standards on quality, traceability and certification. As a result, they may struggle to participate in the emerging integrated value chains and will need support if they are to benefit fully from emerging opportunities. Greater emphasis on a post-farmgate sector that is growing in importance is needed to ensure food safety, help reduce waste and increase profits along the value chain.
In addition, while the consumption of more nutritious foods, such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and seafood, has increased worldwide in recent decades, there has been a parallel, and more rapid, increase in the consumption of highly processed foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meat. One implication is that policy-makers should consider the need to ensure the quality of people’s diets and to prevent malnutrition in all its forms.
The success of meeting rising demand will depend on the availability of new land and the intensification of farming in the region as well as the capacity to make the required investments in the post-production value chain. Raising yields will include increased use of fertilizer, water, pesticides, drugs, new crop varieties and animal breeds and innovative agriculture practices. However, expanding land use and intensification also comes at a high cost to society and to the environment. Overfishing, soil degradation, and higher greenhouse gasses aggravating the threat of climate change are some of those costs.
The sustainable increase in production requires answering some difficult questions, such as: how to produce more on land already cultivated without encroaching on forests, how to build efficient value chains, how to reduce post-harvest losses and waste, and how to mitigate and adapt to changing climatic patterns? The climate change impacts on Sub-Saharan agriculture are, in some cases and regions, large and negative.
Throughout the supply chain, substantial improvements in resource-use efficiency and gains in resource conservation must be achieved to meet growing and changing food demand, and halt and reverse environmental degradation. In addition, in rainfed systems, which account for 95 percent of farmland in Sub-Saharan Africa, expansion of irrigation and better management of rainwater and soil moisture is key to raising productivity and reducing yield losses during dry spells and periods of variable rainfall.
Moreover, there is the need to recognize the interrelations between migration, food security and agriculture and rural development. Migration can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, only if it is safe and regular, and not a necessity. However, migration in the region is primarily caused by poverty, food insecurity and lack of employment and livelihood opportunities. It is vital to improve evidence on rural migration patterns, drivers and impacts and to strengthen policy coherence between migration, food security and agricultural and rural development policies, including towards the adoption and implementation of the Global Compact on Migration at the regional and national level.
Raising agricultural productivity for sustainable growth
Population and income growth will require that agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa would need to more than double by 2050. Over the past decades, such output growth was achieved mostly through an expansion of land under cultivation, while yields remain low. However, today land is scarce and about 91 percent of the remaining unused but arable land is located in only 6 to 9 Sub-Saharan African countries, and in four of these surplus land is under forest cover.
Agricultural output growth in the coming years will require a change from a strategy based on area expansion to one based on investment in activities, notably research and development (R&D) and extension, which enhance total factor productivity (TFP) growth. Overall TFP is lagging in the region although it appears to have improved in some countries in recent years.
International research can spill over, and international organizations such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Africa Rice Centre (WARDA) produce important new technologies. However, there is room for strengthening relationships with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and other international partners through, for example, greater South-South Cooperation.
National agricultural research and development capability is essential to adapt new technologies to local conditions and to promote locally relevant crops and livestock that otherwise receive little attention. Agricultural expenditure on R&D grew by only 0.6 percent in 1980-1990 and -0.5 percent in 1990-2000, but then rose strongly between 2000 and 2014, from USD 1.7billion to USD 2.5 billion (in 2011 Purchasing Power Parity prices). However, three-quarters of this growth occurred in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.
Despite rising expenditures on agriculture, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) target of agricultural R&D expenditure of 1 percent of agricultural GDP is reached in only very few countries. Stronger collaboration among African national agricultural research systems through joint research programmes and regional centres of excellence is one approach to leverage public expenditures.
Growth of private research, notably in the seed industry, is occurring in some countries. Private companies have been particularly active and successful in introducing maize hybrids. However, small markets, a difficult business environment, including competition with government corporations and weak intellectual property rights, among other constraints, are hindering private sector investment in R&D. Private research, outside of South Africa, is still limited and the public sector must take the lead in R&D, especially in areas of market failure.
New technologies are essential, but do not blossom without complementary investments. For example, adoption rates of improved seed for all varieties except for rice have risen significantly since 2000, yet yields remain low. This is because there has not been a concomitant increase in use and adoption of inputs such as fertilizer and improved crop management. Fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa is low, with average consumption in 2009-2012 at 14 to 9.7 kg/ha in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), 20.2 kg/ha in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and 11.5 kg/ha in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (excluding South Africa and Mauritius), compared to 159 kg/ha in Latin America and 396 kg/ha in Asia.
The adoption of modern inputs depends on their profitability, which is enhanced through investments in extension, roads, communications, electricity and irrigation. Poor infrastructure reduces competitiveness. A comparative analysis of fertilizer costs in several Sub-Saharan African countries and Thailand concluded that improvements in domestic transportation systems would generate the single largest fertilizer price reduction in the African countries.
In addition, increased investment in irrigation can raise land productivity and improve stability of yields. The rising uncertainties that climate change brings, especially for rainfed agriculture, make such investment more urgent.
There are very substantial challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa in achieving sustained productivity growth. Achieving the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) target of 10 percent of public expenditure to agriculture is an important step in addressing those challenges. However, many countries fall below this threshold. At the same time, it is just as important to prioritize public investments effectively.
An innovative approach to leveraging public investments are public-private partnerships (PPPs) that bring together business, governments and civil society. They are relatively new in agriculture but have the potential to modernize the sector and contribute to sustainable and inclusive agricultural development. However, PPPs are complex, involve high transaction costs and are best suited for situations of market failure. A robust institutional and regulatory framework is critical in attracting private investment for infrastructure projects.
It is also essential to formulate public policies and programmes, and to exchange approaches, tools, best practices and lessons learned on harnessing the contribution of migrants and displaced people to all dimensions of sustainable development.
- State of Food and Agriculture in Africa: Future Prospects and Emerging Issues | January 2018
- Climate Change and its impact on the work and activities of FAO: Building resilience to address extreme vulnerability of Africa's agriculture and rural livelihoods | February 2018
- Leveraging Youth Employment Opportunities in Agriculture in Rural Sectors in Africa | January 2018
- Results and Priorities for FAO in the Africa Region | January 2018
- Ministerial Round Table: The SDG 2030 Agenda – Delivering Sustainable Agriculture Growth and Rural Transformation in Africa | January 2018
- Ministerial Round Table: Zero Hunger | January 2018