Nutrition, food security challenges discussed at IFNA meeting

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The first partners Meeting of the Initiative for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa (IFNA) was held in Addis Ababa on May 18 and 19.

IFNA which was launched in Nairobi during  August 2016 in order to help African Governments accelerate the implementation of nutrition policies aims to build up on past experiences and achievements and will scale up action on nutrition, linking the comparative advantages of each partner with the aim of ending hunger and improving the nutritional situation in Africa.

“Agriculture continues to be a fundamental sector for sustainable development and poverty reduction. In agriculture based economies like Ethiopia, agriculture and its associated industries are essential to growth and reducing mass poverty and food security. Using agriculture as a base for economic growth requires a productivity revolution in smallholder farming and improving the productivity, profitability, sustainability of smallholder farming is the main pathway for poverty reduction,” underlined Tesfaye Mengiste, State Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources in his keynote speech.

Currently, Africa is the only continent where the number of undernourished people is increasing. Statistics show that one person out of five does not have an adequate amount of food. Compared to Asia, a continent which has succeeded in reducing its prevalence of childhood stunting from 49 percent in 1990 to 28 percent in 2010, there are several countries in Africa where more than 40 percent of children are today stunted.

Dr. Belay Begashaw, Director General of the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa stated that Food security and nutrition are interlinked and so need to be addressed together.

“Integrated action across different sectors is important. In Africa, agriculture employs 60 percent of the African labor force and accounts only for 32 percent of the GDP. Africa is the highest importer of food items; West Africa imports around 40 percent its rice and it is also estimated that 30 percent of all cereals consumed across the continent are imported according to data from 2013.In 2012, sub-Saharan African imports reached 43.6 billion USD,” said Belay underlining the need to invest more in the agriculture sector so productivity can increase.

Besides the issues of food security and nutrition, the Forum also underlined the need to work on Agricultural resilience as Africa continues to be vulnerable and prone to sudden shocks, such as the recent drought that has left a large number of people to rely on emergency food assistance.