Africa / Agriculture / Europe / Food Security

Europe risks being left behind as partner with African farm sector, Conway, Sibanda and other experts report to UK Parliament

Lindiwe Sibanda

Lindiwe Sibanda, member of the board of trustees of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and chief executive officer and head of diplomatic mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (photo credit: ILRI).

As fears increase about the impact of another global food crisis on poverty in Africa, a ten-member panel of development experts from Europe and Africa launched a report today, 26 October 2010, warning that Europe risks being left behind as a partner in Africa’s agricultural development.

‘Africa and Europe: Partnerships for Agricultural Development, The Montpellier Panel Report’ provides an overview of the state of European investment in African agriculture, highlights African priorities in agriculture and nutrition, and makes recommendations for ensuring global food price stability and strengthening partnerships between Europe and Africa.

The report was launched at an event hosted in the Houses of Parliament by Lord Cameron of Dillington and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development, a cross-party initiative drawing members from both Houses of the UK Parliament.

The panel of experts who made the report include Sir Gordon Conway, of Imperial College, and Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, chief executive officer of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and board member of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Conway pioneered sustainable agriculture, developing integrated pest management programs for the State of Sabah in Malaysia and formerly served as president of the Rockefeller Foundation, chief scientific advisor to the UK Department for International Development and president of the Royal Geographic Society. Sibanda, an animal scientist by training and a practicing commercial beef cattle farmer, breeding Thuli and Brahman cattle, coordinates policy research and advocacy programs in 14 southern African countries, all aimed at making southern Africa a food-secure region, and serves as an advisor on an eminent panel of experts for the Guardian‘s Global Development website. Both Conway and Sibanda were on hand to launch the Montpellier Panel Report in London.

The report comes at a time when Brazil, China and India are scaling up their investments and partnerships in various sectors across Africa, and Africa is taking the lead in boosting its own agricultural development. Europe risks being left behind as a key partner to tap the huge potential of the farm sector in Africa. GDP is now rising in 27 of Africa’s 30 largest economies—both in countries with significant resource exports and in those without. That growth is coming from a variety of sources, not just oil and other natural resources, but also agriculture, finance, retail, and telecommunications.

The report portrays an Africa vulnerable to spikes in food prices, yet also lays the groundwork for unprecedented progress in food production. Meanwhile, Europe has made big promises for a massive increase in agriculture aid, but has yet to bridge the gap between rhetoric and action. The current murky state of European assistance obscures its record as historically Africa’s most reliable partner.

Read today’s announcement from Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Sir Gordon Conway, Europe should increase aid to improve agriculture in Africa, posted in full on the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog. Sibanda and Conway argue in this blog that ‘African agriculture represents a huge opportunity for wealthy governments in Europe, who last year joined partners in North America at the L’Aquila G8 summit in pledging $22.5bn to fight hunger around the world. After a generation of neglect of agriculture development, they agreed to do this chiefly through agricultural development and, given the overwhelming need, largely in sub-Saharan Africa. We recently served on a panel of agriculture development experts from Europe and Africa with decades of experience in this area. All of us are eager to see Europe take more decisive and coordinated action to boost agriculture production in Africa. We emerged from our discussions concerned that a dangerous gap is opening up between the big promise of assistance we heard last year and a new flow of investments targeting specific challenges on the ground in Africa.’

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