United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva congratulated African leaders attending the summit for "raising the bar" in the fight against hunger.
The continent's renewed effort to boost regional food security include strengthening the Africa-owned CAADP strategy for agriculture development by including links to social protection, establishing an Africa-for-Africa South-South Cooperation food security trust fund and, most importantly, committing to eradicating chronic hunger by 2025.
In a milestone, during the AU General Assembly session African leaders formally committed to a number of bold goals to reflect “The Vision of the Agriculture We Want” including to Ending Hunger by the year 2025 and Improving Nutrition.
"There is an urgent need to value our local and traditional nutritious food and bring back the issue of eating well,” Graziano da Silva said. "I share with you that a major priority is to cut the food import bill and reduce dependence on imports.”
In an additional sign of a renewed focus on the catalytic role agriculture can play for Africa, the theme the summit is "Transforming Africa's Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development" — and the Union has also designated 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.
The summit also marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) a region-wide cooperative effort aimed at boosting agricultural productivity in the region.
"CAADP was designed by, is led by, and belongs to Africa," said Graziano da Silva during a meeting of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) held here. "True and sustainable development needs to grow from within, and that is what CAADP is about.”
Also during the summit, the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund announced support to four new sub-regional projects aimed at increasing food security and nutrition in some 24 African countries.
The UN has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family farming to focus attention on the critical role of small-scale farmers in bolstering food security and to promote policy- and practice changes aimed at helping them realize their full potential.
That potential is particularly evident in Africa, which today remains predominantly rural and where small scale and family farmers work over 60 percent of the agricultural land.
At the same time, Africa has seven out of ten of the world's fastest growing economies, its cities are growing, and there is a rising demand for food in both national and regional markets, currently largely fed by food imports.
With a predominantly young and rural population, and over 11 million youth expected to enter labor markets over the next decade, Africa's agriculture sector can be a catalyst for inclusive growth, shared prosperity and improved livelihoods in the region, FAO believes.