Consultation by the African Agricultural Research Organizations

Prof. Joachim von Braun, Chair of the Scientific Group for the UN Food Systems Summit, addressed the virtual conference preparing for the UN Food Systems Summit, organized by Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) held February 16, 2021 with distinguished leaders of African agricultural research organizations. More than 300 participated. The consultation is under the heading “Strengthening the African Agricultural Research and Development Towards Improved Africa Food System”.

Distinguished leaders of African agricultural research and development organizations!

I applaud FARA and its partners to launch this initiative to articulate the African voice of agricultural research in the UN Food Systems Summit, and thank Dr Alioune Fall, Chairman FARA Board of Directors and Dr Yemi Akinbamiyo, Executive Director of FARA for the invitation.

The UN Food Systems Summit seeks to transform food systems to be healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable, and to get there quickly. The leadership of the FSS rests with the DSG Amina Mohamed from Nigeria, and special envoy Dr Agnes Kalibata from Rwanda, president of AGRA.

The summit is a moment for FARA and its partners to draw on its deep knowledge. The summit needs to address food systems failures that have contributed to the hunger, malnutrition, and obesity problems; to the environmental problems; to the problems of poor livelihoods in farming communities especially of women. The Food Systems Summit needs to offer solutions to address these failures, and this is where science-based innovations come in:

– Innovations in policies for lowering the cost of healthy diets are needed;
– innovations of institutions that effectively connect farmers to markets and to food industries;
– innovations in technologies for plant breeding for higher and more stable yields, animal health, new protein production;
– innovations in using digital opportunities, and many more.

For this, the food systems in Africa need a more sustained and much higher level of funding for agricultural, food and nutrition research.

The Food Systems Summit is the opportunity to address food systems problems, which only political leaders can tackle. Policy makers including those from Africa will consider food issues in the contexts of other big problems: Covid-19 crisis, climate crisis, and the devastating conflicts that create hunger. And they want to hear about opportunities: science evidence based investment opportunities that can scale; innovative finance opportunities.

An agenda with the appropriate level of ambition is required. The ambitions are clear, and in the SDGs: End hunger and facilitate healthy diets. Achieving that goal and not conflict with sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources. And eliminate poverty and increase wealth and incomes of the low income segments is the third big objective.

It was a bold decision by UN leadership to appoint an independent Scientific Group for the Summit, which I have the honour to chair. We are 29 scientists from around the world, rooted in the many different disciplines related to the food systems. Linking to you in the African Agricultural research community is important to us. The members in the Scientific Group participate in about 60 scientific associations that each have thousands to tens of thousands of members. We have partnerships with the academies of sciences, University consortia, the Global Young Academy and reach out to student networks.

The UN leadership made clear that “The Scientific Group is responsible for ensuring that the Summit brings to bear the foremost scientific evidence from around the world and helps expand the base of shared knowledge about experiences, approaches, and tools for driving sustainable food systems that will inform the future.”

We are committed to deliver on this request. We can only achieve that in partnership with you. I am sure, the African proposals – your proposals for an evidence based FSS – will be heard at the Summit. We appreciate the UN empowering the Science communities for the summit. This must last beyond the Summit.

Thank you and I look forward to the outcome documents of your consultations.

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