In the midst of a worsening hunger crisis, African countries are meeting for the UN Forum on Food and Agriculture

MALABO (AXADLE) In Equatorial Guinea’s capital, Malabo, agriculture ministers from across Africa are meeting this week to discuss solutions to the growing famine crisis at a conference convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The 32nd session of the FAO Regional Conference for Africa (ARC32) opened with a call from the FAO’s Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to trigger an emergency action at national level.

“Together we have learned to do things differently, to go digital like never before and to quickly create new partnerships to overcome threats. The same agility and spirit of cooperation are needed now for the silent pandemic of poverty, hunger and malnutrition and extreme vulnerabilities to shock in Africa, ”he said.

More than 50 government ministers from African member states are attending the hybrid conference, as well as representatives from observer countries, the African Union, donor organizations, civil society and the private sector. Hundreds of delegates will attend the Zoom sessions over the next four days, and many more will watch the live webcast.

“We need to work together to exchange experiences to address these difficulties together,” said HE Francisca Eneme Efua, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forests and Environment of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and President of ARC32. “This conference gives us a unique opportunity to deal with the problems that Africa is facing. I ask all delegations to ‘put everything on the table’ so that we can reach a ministerial consensus,” she said.

Deeper hunger crisis

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 280 million malnourished people in Africa. In 2020, the region recorded the sharpest increase in the incidence of malnutrition – and covered 21 percent of the population, which is more than double that of any other region.

A devastating drought in the Horn of Africa has brought many rural families to their knees and triggered warnings of potential famine in Somalia.

Acute food insecurity in the Sahel and West Africa nearly quadrupled between 2019 and 2022 – jumping from 10.8 million people in 2019 to 40.7 million people in 2022, with several million at risk of slipping into crisis levels of hunger.

Sky-rocketing global food prices and pressure on food supplies due to the Russia / Ukraine crisis are likely to push more people out of hunger in Africa.

In a statement published in the run-up to the conference, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned that time was running out. “Without the extraordinary efforts of any African country, it will be difficult to meet the aspirations and goals of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he wrote.

The Director-General will speak in person at Wednesday’s opening of the ministerial meeting, and the President of Equatorial Guinea will formally open the session.

Four better in focus

The Regional Conference is the FAO’s highest governing body in Africa. Over the next four days, delegates from across Africa will consider and provide guidance on regional priorities in the transformation of agri-food systems in Africa.

Supporting the discussions is FAO’s strategic framework for 2022-2031, which supports the 2030 agenda through the transformation into MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life without leaving anyone behind.

Delegates attending the first day of the conference discussed the FAO’s development of new strategies for science and innovation and climate change.

Highlights in the coming days include a special exchange of experience between countries on solutions for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, and a launch with the African Union of new investment guidelines for young people in agrifood systems.

The conference ends on Thursday 14 April.

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