By Katy Wilson
This Friday (30th October) marks the 6th annual Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS). This year the day will be commemorated in Kampala, Uganda, where, at the 15th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in 2010 it was first declared. Since then the day has been commemorated in Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 2014 at the 23rd session of the AU summit, African Heads of State committed to ending hunger by 2025 and reducing stunting to 10% in the same period. This commitment is one of seven forming the Malabo Declaration. ADFNS provides an opportunity to reaffirm this goal and report on progress that has been made in reaching this commitment, among other objectives. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report asserts that, as projected for 2014-2016, the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 23.2%%, down from 23.8% between 2012-2014.
The main aim of ADFNS is to bring together a range of stakeholders to intensify pressure to tackle food and nutrition security challenges in Africa, motivate financial commitments and bring greater awareness to the progress being made on the continent and the barriers still being faced. Additionally the day serves as a platform to facilitate sharing of experiences and knowledge, support for learning and measurement of progress.
The key objectives of ADFNS are:
- To increase awareness of the importance of investing in the value-chains for nutritious foods and agricultural commodities in Africa and the benefits of doing so for social and economic development;
- To facilitate a discussion between a variety of high-level national stakeholders as well as other governmental, not-for-profit and private sector actors such as farmers’ organisations, private businesses and academic and research institutions. With the hopes that the diverse points of view and cooperation will help shape an action plan to end hunger and malnutrition;
- To share new technologies and best practices for empowering women;
- To build women farmers’ awareness of market opportunities for local and indigenous foods and their role in diversifying diets and boosting food and nutrition security;
- To promote the production and consumption of high quality, nutritious foods such as those fortified with micronutrients, or diverse nutrient dense vegetables and fruits as well animal source foods.
This year, the 6th ADFNS is centring on the theme of women, following the announcement made at the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Summit that 2015 is the Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063. As has long been known, women are key to ending hunger and malnutrition, contributing a significant proportion of farm labour and household care.
Over a three day conference (28th-30th October), four sub-themes, representing areas for technical and policy action will be discussed:
- Sub-theme 1: Accelerated action toward improved maternal, adolescent and young child nutrition. Key questions include how to develop an enabling environment supportive of women and the role they play in caring for children and how to increase their access to beneficial programmes such as social protection and school feeding.
- Sub-theme 2: Harnessing opportunities for production, access and consumption of nutritious, safe and diverse diets. Such opportunities are expected to come from across food value chains from processing more nutritious foods to promoting nutritious foods in markets to ensuring food households consume is safe. Additionally increasing on-farm production, diversifying farms and minimising food losses will be critical to better diets and nutrition.
- Sub-theme 3: Improving and promoting small holder farmers’, particularly women farmers’ capacity to access markets. This theme will investigate ways in which women can be empowered as small business owners and consumers as well as the role technology can play in improving nutrition.
- Sub-theme 4: Strengthening institutional capacities and systems, partnerships and knowledge sharing for enhanced delivery of food and nutrition security interventions. Policy for improving how food systems, institutions and organisations deliver nutrition is the focus here, broadening the scope of the discussion to global, regional and continental objectives and strategies.
Several projects and reports are also to be launched and discussed at the events around ADFNS, for example the:
- Uganda GAFSP Multisectoral Nutrition Support Project, supported by the World Bank;
- Improving Nutrition Outcomes through Optimised Agricultural Investments Project, from the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN);
- 2015 Global Nutrition Report, which states that over 50% of children are stunted or wasted in five of the countries studied including Ethiopia, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and
- Post ICN-2 Agenda for Africa.
This year’s ADFNS and its focus on women is much needed and we hope the outcomes of discussions will help shape an actionable and transformative agenda for African food and nutrition security, that serves both men and women. As many as 72 developing countries out of 129 reached the MDG hunger target, which is positive but fails to consider nutrition. Most of these “successful” countries have stable political conditions and economic growth, along with sound social protection policies aimed at assisting the most vulnerable. Although not always vulnerable, policies for development and agriculture have in the past have often failed to acknowledge the importance and needs of women. One message is clear this ADFNS, reaching Africa’s targets on hunger but particularly nutrition will be almost impossible unless women’s voices are heard and gender inequality is tackled.