African, American leaders agree to cooperate on agricultural and food systems transformation strategies

On Tuesday January 18, 2022, leaders from Africa and the Americas met in a dialogue to discuss areas of convergence in the agricultural development agenda of the two regions. The session was organized by AGRA, and had the participation of ministers and other high-profile leaders from the two regions including AGRA’s Chair H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn, AGRA’s president, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil, Hon. Tereza Cristina and H.E. Manuel Otero, the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), amongst many others. The session was co-moderated by AGRA’s Deputy President, Dr. Fadel Ndiame, and Beverly Best, the Director of External and Institutional Relations at IICA.  This was the first of two ministerial meetings planned to explore areas of cooperation between ministers of agriculture from Africa and the Americas.  A larger meeting is planned for April and will be convened by AGRA and IICA following the signing of a MoU for collaboration between the two organizations in advancing intercontinental agricultural transformation plans.

In the Tuesday gathering, the delegates agreed on a plan that will see the two regions share agricultural production expertise as well as market sharing techniques, all aimed at a complete agri-food system transformation, with Africa as a special focus. 

Dr. Kalibata noted that a majority of the countries in the Americas had already undergone an agricultural transformation, which served as a precursor for their overall economic transformation. She went on to appeal for an exchange of technical knowhow, especially among the scientists from the two continents, which she noted would advance the resolutions of last year’s UN Food Systems Summit, to which she was a special envoy.

“We recognize that Latin America has moved significantly in some of the areas we are trying to move in. This is especially when it comes to building its own research and innovative capabilities in the agricultural sector, but also in valuable markets. We (Africa) are looking to learn from you (the Americas),” she said. 

H.E. Dessalegn noted that the cooperation between Africa and the Americas would provide an opportunity to support the deployment of agro-industrialization initiatives in the two regions for increased food security. This he added would be done by leveraging innovation capability through cooperative research and technology transfer, as well as driving economies of scale for micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

“This cooperation and collaboration will enable Africa to learn, adapt and increase adoption of digital innovations, mechanization, and services that benefits more small-scale producers, improve food and nutrition security, strengthen sustainability and resilience,” he added. 

Hon. Minister Tereza Cristina, affirmed Brazil’s willingness to share the strategies that have made her country an agricultural powerhouse, noting that “it is crucial to consider agriculture and food security together, and to think about free agricultural trade and fair and sustainability”.

The discussion also touched on the global issues around climate change, soil degradation and water loss, with the leaders agreeing on the need for further engagement in these areas to develop impactful solutions. 

“No country is going to save itself in this crisis. We need to be together to face problems of a transversal nature. Everything makes more sense if we build bridges,” said H.E. Otero.

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