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HomeAfricaSmallholder Farmers Play a Crucial Role in CGIAR's Response to Hunger Crisis.

Smallholder Farmers Play a Crucial Role in CGIAR’s Response to Hunger Crisis.

By Guy Dinmore

Dr Ismahane Elouafi faces a significant challenge as the new executive managing director of CGIAR, a global network of agricultural research centers. Her main task is to address the world’s most severe hunger crisis in modern history.

In Africa, where she encounters her greatest hurdles, Elouafi must focus on developing science-based innovations and technologies while advocating for responsible policies from governments. Despite commitments made in the Malabo Declaration a decade ago by African Union leaders to end hunger in Africa by 2025, allocate at least 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture, and double productivity levels, these goals remain unmet.

According to the FAO’s 2023 report on the state of global food security, between 691 and 783 million people worldwide faced hunger in 2022. The prevalence of undernourishment continues to rise in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and all sub-regions of Africa.

In an interview from Nigeria, Elouafi highlighted how most African countries fall short of the 10 percent budget target for agriculture, with only Ethiopia and Morocco coming close. Additionally, African countries are failing to meet the goal of allocating three percent of spending on science and innovation.

The worsening climate crisis, economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased costs of grain and fertilizer due to geopolitical events have derailed efforts to achieve the goals set in the Malabo Declaration. A recent report by Oxfam revealed that nearly three-quarters of African governments have reduced agricultural budgets since 2019 while spending more on arms.

While CGIAR focuses on science-based solutions, Elouafi emphasizes that addressing hunger crises involves not only technical solutions but also policies related to investment, education, women’s rights, and capacity building.

She stresses the importance of African countries investing in solutions tailored to the continent’s needs, such as developing food processing industries to reduce the trade deficit in food products. Elouafi also highlights the potential value added through processing crops like durum wheat and quinoa.

Under initiatives like TAAT, CGIAR works to develop innovations in agriculture with a focus on delivering knowledge to farmers. The work done by centers like IITA shows progress in improving food systems in Africa.

During a visit to Nigeria, Elouafi discussed strategic initiatives with IITA, emphasizing the need for stakeholder engagement to combat food insecurity in Africa. She proposed a continental summit on food security and explored collaboration opportunities with development banks to support agriculture through an endowment fund.

Elouafi recognizes the importance of leadership at the country level, pointing to Ethiopia’s progress in wheat production through partnerships with CGIAR research centers. As food security becomes a critical part of the climate agenda, she stresses the role of CGIAR in adopting new technologies and policies to meet the continent’s growing food demands.

Elouafi advocates for crop diversification and highlights neglected crops like fonio and cassava that can contribute to food security in Africa. She acknowledges the debate around smallholder versus large-scale agriculture, emphasizing the need for solutions that benefit both groups, such as cooperative models.

Looking ahead, Elouafi envisions a future where smallholders are not only paid for their agricultural products but also for the ecosystem services they provide. While challenges remain in monitoring and monetizing these services, she sees potential for a system where farmers are compensated for their environmental contributions.

In the ideal world, Elouafi hopes to see policies that recognize smallholders’ role in ecosystem services and provide them with fair compensation for their contributions.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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