The G8 Summit at Camp David last weekend marked a new stage in the mission towards a food secure future, with the announcement of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The new initiative announced by the G8 in partnership with African leaders aims to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through significantly increased investment from the private sector in African agriculture; as well as through effective country plans and food security policies.
At the G8 summit in L’Aquila in 2009, over $20 billion was pledged to bolster food security; yet only 22% of these donations have been disbursed. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition promises to build on and help realise the promise of L’Aquila by fulfilling outstanding financial pledges, providing bilateral and multilateral assistance aligned to country plans with increased efficiency.
A statement from the White House said:
In partnership with Africa’s people and leaders, our goals are to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities. We recognize and will act upon the critical role played by smallholder farmers, especially women, in transforming agriculture and building thriving economies.
At the African Union assembly in 2003, the African-led Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme was put in place to reform African agriculture, with the aim of an average annual growth rate of 6 percent in agriculture by 2015. The New Alliance will work in partnership with this programme, providing predictable funding commitments, specific policy actions, and statements of intent from the private sector.
In particular, the New Alliance pledges to:
– Support the financing of infrastructure projects
– Secure commitments of $1.2 billion over three years from existing and new donors
– Launch a Technology Platform that will assess the availability of improved technologies for food commodities and create a roadmap to accelerate their adoption
– Launch the Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership, with AGRA to promote the commercialization, distribution and adoption of key technologies improved seed varieties
– Share relevant agricultural data available from G-8 countries with African partners and convene an international conference on Open Data for Agriculture
– Support the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) in identifying key risks to food and nutrition security and agricultural development and recommending options for managing these risks
– Accelerate the availability and adoption of agricultural index insurance, in order to mitigate risks to farmers
The topic of nutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives, also featured prominently in the announcement, with G8 leaders promising to support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, as well as the accelerated release, adoption and consumption of bio-fortified crop varieties to improve the nutritional quality of food in Africa.
Most significantly during the conference, US President Barack Obama announced the signing of Letters of Intent from over 45 local and multinational companies, such as Yara and Syngenta to invest over $3 billion across the agricultural value chain. In his speech President Obama said:
We’re going to hold ourselves accountable. We’ll measure results. And we’ll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers’ incomes and over the next decade helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty.
Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) welcomed the initiative, particularly celebrating the strong ownership element by African countries themselves. He said:
The unveiling of this initiative today sends a strong signal that the world’s largest economies are ready to extend and deepen their commitments and deliver on a new level of support for eradicating hunger, and doing so in ways that are sustainable for our planet and our societies – including rural societies in developing countries.
Other organisations have had a more critical reception of the announcement. Oxfam’s Lamine Ndiaye commented:
This new alliance – is a nice complement at best, a deflection at worst. The role of the private sector is important, but they will not be able to make up for the G8’s broken promises. Smallholder farmers need the freedom to pursue their own growing strategies, not take overly prescriptive tips on farming from G8 leaders, or one size fits all technologies from far away CEOs. Having been developed without African civil society, it’s unclear what role they will play in its execution
To see the attention of the world’s leaders focussed so firmly on food security and nutrition and stimulating worldwide discussion is a welcome step forward. The impressive promises made by the G8 could pave the way towards improved livelihoods for the world’s poorest – provided that they maintain this momentum to turn their pledges into progress.