12th Africa Day for food and Nutrition Security kicks off virtually

28Oct 2021
Angel Navuri
The Guardian
12th Africa Day for food and Nutrition Security kicks off virtually

The Commemoration of the of the 12th Africa Day for food and Nutrition Security kicks off today virtually with a call to financials commitments at all levels to address contemporary challenges to the implementation of food and nutrition security interventions in Africa.

This year’s celebration themed”rediscovering our local African diets for sustainable food systems and nutrition” is organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD,World Food Programme and Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

According to the concept note that was made available at the Guardian reads that the overarching aim of the ADFNS is to serve a platform for rallying political,technical and financial commitments at all levels to address contemporary challenges to food and nutrition security in Africa.

Adding that Following persistent episodes of food and nutrition insecurity on the continent, the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government, sitting in their 15th Ordinary Session in Kampala, Uganda, declared every 30th October to be the commemoration of the Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS).

The Decision requested the AU Commission and AU Development Agency-NEPAD and partners to organize this event at continental level, and urged every Member State to mark it. A side event convened on the margins of this Summit under the banner “Africa must feed itself.

The ADFNS has so far been successfully commemorated 11 times following its launch in Lilongwe, Malawi, on 31st October 2010. Ten successive editions of the Day were hosted by Ethiopia, AU Headquarters, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania and Egypt.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 edition of the ADFNS was commemorated virtually under the theme “Resilient Food Systems toward Healthy Diets for the Vulnerable during Emergencies: Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic”.

The note further highlighted Experience from earlier editions of the ADFNS Commemoration suggest the event has provided a platform for knowledge sharing, exchange of experiences and passing key messages to the audience.

Adding that the event is also used as a platform for influential and policy leaders to express their commitments and rally other leaders to emulate them.

For those ADFNS events that were hosted by Members States, policy leaders such as presidents, prime ministers and ministers used the event for showcasing their achievements and strategies for improving their countries’ food and nutrition security situation.

For example, in 2014 the then host of the ADFNS, the Democratic Republic of Congo, took participants by storm when the then Congolese Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture took visiting VIPs to irrigated farming project sites.

Earlier in 2013, visiting participants learned a lot about Niger’s total commitment to eradicating food and nutrition insecurity and gaining resilience against food shocks through the country’s flagship Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens (L’Initiative 3N).

Past commemorations of the ADFNS attracted significant amount of technical and financial support from both national budgets and international donor funds. Furthermore, the event has brought together a cross-section of stakeholders to interact and learn from another’s comparative advantage and experience.

Stakeholders range from international partner organizations committed to funding or delivering programmes and interventions on ending hunger and malnutrition, research institutions, civil society, relevant governmental and non- organizations and bilateral and multilateral development partners.

Past events benefited from substantial support from some of these international partners; noteworthy is the continued support of FAO, WFP and UNICEF. Some partners that also contributed to some activities in some of the ADFNS editions, are WHO, Save the Children, HarvestPlus and Nutrition International.

As usual, leading research organizations in food and nutrition contributed technically when called upon. These include IAEA, A4NH/IFPRI, International Potato Center and the Global Fund on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

Therefore considering the continuing COVID-19 situation, this year’s ADFNS will also be commemorated virtually via video link on Friday 29 October 2021. The Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Agriculture (DARBE) is leading the preparations for the organization of the event.

Depending on resources at their disposal, AU Member States are encouraged to commemorate the ADFNS based on the agreed theme. To this end, development partners and agencies committed to fighting hunger and malnutrition are encouraged to collaborate with Member States’ ministries and food security agencies in the course of organizing the event.

Today, as the world is still reeling from the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, it is paramount that food and nutrition security stakeholders reflect and move towards practical solutions and measured options which result in sustainable and resilient food systems.

Covid-19 has uncovered problems with our food systems, including consumption of foods that are poor in macro- and micronutrient diversity, over-processed, unsafe and full of substances that cause under-nutrition, over-weight and obesity and are not sustainably produced. Growing populations, particularly in urban areas, are getting trapped into eating diets full of sugar, starch, fats and other condiments that cause non-communicable diseases.

Meanwhile, there is a horde of our own diets that are being orphaned or neglected that over ages have proved resilient to adverse climatic conditions, such as shortage of rains and water, increased temperature, strong winds and storms. Year after year, we are falling prey to consumption of heavily industrialized diets, with their harmful additives and depleted natural ingredients.

Therefore, it is time that we go back to basics and re-examine the foods and diets which our ancestors depended on and that are scientifically proven to be resilient to the changing weather patterns, and are rich in nutrient and micronutrient content.

Scientific evidence shows that sustained consumption of diets that are characteristically bio-diverse, potent with different micronutrients, such as vitamins, iron, zinc, calcium and manganese, equips the body with significant immunity to prevent certain non-communicable conditions. Authoritative information suggest that healthy bodies are resilient to Covid-19 than those that suffer from existing conditions such as overweight and obesity, diabetes and malnutrition deficiency.

The ADFNS event is configured around discussing, sharing experiences and recommending a range of strategies, initiatives and actions that will galvanize Africa’s policy and support to be inclined towards investing in resilient food systems, more so in multiplication, production, processing, distribution and consumption of our own (local or indigenous) food that have since long adapted to our climates, soils and biodiversity, needing no use of the costly industrial fertilizers and seed improvement technologies, which by far have proved unsustainable and not pro-poor.

Technical dialogues will also center on how to take investments in value chains of resilient and nutrient-dense African crops to scale, how to advocate for them and how to overcome challenges that might hinder the scale-up and wide use of these emerging or ‘back to basics’ initiatives. The event will harness and garner key messages to consolidate advocacy and stimulate the necessary action to translate words into reality.

 The overriding outcome expected from the commemoration of the 12th ADFNS is to arrive at a common understanding and appreciation of the need to enrich African food systems by utilizing the opportunity we have in the form of rich biodiversity of own local or traditional foods, which have over the years been diminishing in both production and consumption. By so doing, the event hopes to widen the range of Africa’s food baskets, increase nutrient bioavailability and drastically cut food insecurity and malnutrition on the continent.

This outcome will be presented in the form of a final communiqué of the event. The event will also produce the summary and synthesis of the technical discussions and recommendations for action.