Innovation issues that are considered essential to increase the productivity and sustainability of agrifood systems, such as digital agriculture and biotechnology research will be a major focus of consideration as Ministers of Agriculture of Africa and the Americas have agreed to convene a larger summit later this year.
The agreement, which was reached during the First High-Level Roundtable between Africa and the Americas, convened and organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), entitled “Building Bridges for Future Cooperation in Agrifood Systems” comes on the heels of the consensus that both continents must work together to develop a cooperation agenda, as they both face common challenges and opportunities with respect to transforming their agrifood systems to make them more sustainable and inclusive.
During the roundtable, other issues of interest as they affect agricultural productivity in tbe two regions also came up. They include the recovery of degraded soils, efficient water management and the promotion of more open, fairer and more transparent international food trade.
The high-ranking officials who participated in the virtual event agreed that, beyond the cultural and historical similarities and differences between the Americas and Africa, the continents face a unique and common challenge: that of building knowledge-intensive agriculture, with a human face, while caring for the environment and considering the areas of nutrition and health, which, they agreed, is necessary in order to produce more and higher quality food.
To this end, they agreed to develop agendas throughout the year to link technical assistance institutions for agriculture – such as Brazil’s Embrapa, Argentina’s INTA and all national research organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, which play a key role – and their scientists and professionals, in order to deepen exchanges. They also proposed holding a ministerial summit on agriculture in Africa and the Americas in the second half of 2022.
Among the participants were Agnes Kalibata, former Minister of Agriculture of Rwanda, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit and President of AGRA; Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Ethiopia and President of AGRA’s Board of Directors; Tereza Cristina, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil; Julián Domínguez, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina; Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana; Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica; Modibo Keita, Minister of Rural Development of Mali; and Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA. Fadel Ndiame and Beverly Best served as moderators, representing AGRA and IICA, respectively.
The initiative to bring the Americas and Africa closer together arose during the extensive preparatory process for the Food Systems Summit held last September, explained Agnes Kalibata, who was the main facilitator of the global event held in New York.
“I wish to thank Manuel Otero for building bridges between the two continents, given the fact that, from the perspective of South-South Cooperation, we face common challenges. I have visited Brazil and other Latin American countries and I am certain that we must learn from them. I am impressed by the progress Latin America has achieved in scientific research and trade”, Kalibata stated.
“The Summit”, she added, “provided us with the opportunity to bring these continents together to take advantage of the best they have to offer. This is the perfect time to engage in South-South Cooperation and to learn from each other. We are going to demonstrate that international cooperation can help us feed more people and take better care of our planet by being responsible producers. This meeting serves as a launch pad for a series of commitments”.
Minister Tereza Cristina of Brazil agreed that there is room to engage in valuable cooperation between the two continents, saying, “It is crucial to simultaneously address agriculture and food security, as well as to reflect on free and fair agricultural trade and sustainability.”
The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture associated the sustainability of agrifood systems with the need for international agricultural trade to be transparent and fair.
Former Ethiopian Premier, Desalegn noted that, with support from Brazil, his country has achieved positive results in the fight against hunger, and revealed that African countries are eager to exchange experiences with Latin American and Caribbean nations.
He said, “As a region, Africa lacks access to modern technologies and mechanized tools that allow for increasing productive variety and quality as well as expanding the percentage of arable land. Many of our farmers are still subsistence farmers; therefore, cooperating with Latin America and the Caribbean will enable us to improve the lives of our populations”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Zulfikar Mustapha pointed out that one of the common challenges facing that subregion and African nations is their vulnerability to natural disasters due to climate change.