#InvestedInSeries w/PAFO – Strengthening African Agriculture & Food Security
Our guest writer this week is Fatma BEN REJEB who is the Chief Executive Officer of The Pan-African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO). She previously served as General Secretary (CEO) of the Maghreb and North African Farmers’ Union (UMNAGRI). She has also held a Directorship of International Cooperation and Partnership at the Tunisian Union of Agriculture and Fisheries (UTAP)
More than half of all people living in Africa depend on agriculture for all or part of their livelihood. Under these circumstances, fostering agricultural growth means working to boost incomes and to generally improve living conditions in rural areas. Ensuring the continent’s food and nutritional security is a multi-sectoral and global challenge, linked in many ways to living conditions.
It is from this background that the Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO) came into being. PAFO is a continental organization, with a membership base composed of Regional Farmers’ Networks. PAFO carries the voice of more than 80 million African farmers who are members of nearly 70 national organizations, unions, federations, cooperatives, associations, etc., present in over 45 African countries. These organizations are members of the PAFO networks members in the five African regions: Eastern Africa (EAFF); Central Africa (PROPAC); Western Africa (ROPPA); Southern Africa (SACAU); Northern Africa (UMNAGRI).
PAFO’s mission is to represent the interests of African farmers and promote the development of African agriculture. PAFO has a fundamental coordinating function both with its member networks and with continental and international organizations. It is thus able to facilitate dialogue and cooperation not only with the various continental and international institutions, but also with financial and technical partners.
Of late, the agricultural development model is being challenged, as poverty and hunger are the visible results of poor development in rural areas. In light of expected population growth, with millions of young people entering the labour market every year, promoting sectors with many job opportunities is a challenge of paramount importance.
Alongside this, are issues with insecurity, armed conflicts, terrorism, corruption, etc. which, though recognized, are not handled with pro-African solutions, a situation made worse by the marginalisation of the rural areas.
In addition to these issues, Farmers across Africa are facing climate change, epidemics, infestations, and currently the economic devastation of Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 is set to dramatically exacerbate food insecurity in Africa. Lockdown measures have disrupted internal supply chains halting food production. In Africa, where many borders have been closed, subsequent shortages have pushed up prices of staple foods. Moreover, many African countries are more dependent on food externally sourced.
African countries are challenged to transform the agricultural sectors in Africa into engines of sustainable food security and sovereignty, as well as build regional and continental integration by facilitating trade at the inter-regional and continental level. More investment by governments is needed in the agricultural sector. Policy makers must be aware that agriculture is one of the key sectors of the economy. Additionally, farmers and their organizations must be considered to be full partners and not only beneficiaries of sectoral, development or investment policies. They must be involved in all aspects of such policies.
Moreover, all the talk about promoting women and youth empowerment becomes meaningless without an effective rural development plan as well as a shift in mind-set. Infrastructure development, efficient public-private partnership, access to land, to finance and to production tools, etc. are among many other solutions which, even though they are guaranteed by law, are very rarely implemented.
So, what is PAFO doing to support implementation of these solutions?
In line with its mission, PAFO works to improve the productivity of Farmer’s organizations in Africa through fundraising, institutional development, information and communication, exchange of experiences and dissemination of good agricultural practices.
PAFO supports the core role of the agricultural sector and the necessity to support and protect the smallholder farmers’ production system and supply of food products is an absolute priority in these times of COVID-19. PAFO’s statement at the beginning of the pandemic is a commitment to the affirmation that African farmers have always been and will always be engaged and responsible for the continuity of the food production chain from their farm level. African farmers are aware of their responsibility and intend to accomplish their mission while fully respecting the prevention and containment measures put in place by governments.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the risks related to it required a radical rethinking of the 2020 annual working plan. As such, in consultation with the partners, a continuity plan of the current Continental implemented project: Farmers Organizations for ACP Program (FO4ACP), funded by OACPS-EU and IFAD, that gives absolute priority to the safety of those involved, was developed as part of coordinating interventions in response to Covid-19. This fits perfectly in the overall objective of FO4ACP to bolster income and to improve livelihood, food and nutrition security and safety of family farmers.
PAFO is working with its partners to respond to the urgent impacts of the pandemic with solutions that are sustainable and effective. Among others, PAFO made arrangements to reach farmers locked-down in their rural areas for distance training and coaching. Many other programs are currently also under urgent discussion and planning.
Going forward, food security must be linked to food sovereignty, food safety, nutritional security and local food systems. Among other good practices, there is a need to enhance the researcher-farmer relationship while respecting the farmers’ local knowledge. It is also needed to focus on demand-driven innovations and technologies as well as knowledge management and communication will be the foundation to develop good experiences and upscale the best practices. PAFO stands ready and committed to using all its resources and accumulated experience to support African farmers as they fulfil their vital mission of keeping our beloved continent well fed, healthy and strong.