CGIAR has a strong presence in Africa, contributing important evidence on different aspects of agriculture and throughout the food system, from production to consumption, for nutrition. Looking ahead to the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS-2021) in 2021, while grappling with the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, African Union (AU) member states are already indicating heightened interest in taking a food system perspective to agricultural development.
The African continent is ripe to take this perspective, with continental policy instruments in place, including the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), Agenda 2063, the Malabo Declarations on (1) ‘Accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods’ and (2) ‘Nutrition security through inclusive economic growth and sustainable development,’ and the CAADP Biennial review process. National and AU policy instruments are strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda, but CAADP goals are even more ambitious on ending hunger and malnutrition on the continent. These AU policy instruments address different aspects of the food system, but a more deliberate food systems approach is needed for implementation, to manage likely tradeoffs.
In 2016, A4NH co-led the development of the Africa Trends and Outlook Report 2015 (ATOR-2015), Achieving a nutrition revolution for Africa: The road to healthier diets and optimal nutrition. The ATORs are the AU’s official CAADP progress monitoring reports. The ATOR-2015 described the food security and nutrition challenges Africa faces within the context of existing policy instruments. It recommended taking a deliberate food system approach, making current interest in taking this perspective for Africa and on the global stage very welcome and overdue.
Holistically addressing challenges in the different food system components at the country, sub-regional, and continental level will be important to fostering the desired continental nutrition revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated actions needed to enhance African food systems’ resilience, as reflected by the AU Agriculture Ministers Declaration on Food Security and Nutrition During the COVID-19 Pandemic. These issues were further discussed in May, 2020, when A4NH and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) were part of and moderated a joint webinar of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and Regional Economic Communities, titled “COVID-19 Response on Nutrition and Food Systems.” CGIAR’s strong presence in different food system domains in several countries is well positioned to make important contributions to AU processes. The important question is, how?
In addition to leading development of the ATOR-2015, A4NH has taken a multi-pronged approach to engaging with AU processes, participating in discussions and dialogues to help identify entry points for engaging both responsively and proactively, including:
Figure 1: Key messages from the One CGIAR presentation at ADFNS 2020
African Day of Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS) Commemoration: ADFNS is held annually on October 30, and an A4NH/IFPRI representative serves on the steering committee. In 2018, A4NH’s Food Safety flagship led the development of the commemoration’s background paper on the theme “Sustained food safety action for improved nutrition and health of Africans.” In 2020, A4NH led the preparation of a joint CGIAR presentation on “Leveraging evidence-based innovative interventions to create impact in food and nutrition security,” led by Nutrition International. Titled “A Food System Perspective is Critical to Address Africa’s Food Security and Nutrition Challenges,” it was designed as a “One CGIAR” presentation structured to reflect how different CGIAR entities collectively address different but necessary domains of the food system, providing synergy on improving diet quality. A4NH’s Namukolo Covic moderated the High-Level African Union Commemoration event, which received input from the different thematic areas leading to the African Union Communique targeting AU member states and development partners with recommendations that will contribute to informing the AU’s position on UNFSS-2021. Figure 1 details CGIAR Centers that were involved.
These examples show the importance of bringing evidence generated by CGIAR to engage in and inform actions and progress on African continental and SDG-relevant processes, an additional way to reach multiple countries with this work. As the AU, its member states, and the global community seek to accelerate progress on SDGs by generating momentum on food system transformation, CGIAR’s research on the continent is more relevant than ever, and this sort of engagement can proactively and responsively facilitate knowledge sharing. A4NH’s presence in relevant dialogues and discussions identifies entry points for engagement – important information for CGIAR to give strategic consideration moving forward.
Namukolo Covic coordinates A4NH country engagement work, and is a Senior Research Coordinator at IFPRI. She is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Reflections from a recent webinar where nutrition experts gathered to consider past learnings in an effort to to better face the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems and malnutrition in all its forms.
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