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Virtual agriculture forum focuses on resilient food systems

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2020-09-11 15:11
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More than 4,000 delegates from African governments, the private sector, civil society, the research community and development partners will conclude the 10th edition of the African Green Revolution Forum or AGRF today, with calls for a focus on feeding cities and building resilient food systems.

The virtual event, which was hosted by Rwanda, sought to shift attention to feeding Africa's cities by assessing opportunities, challenges and policies required to enable African farmers and agribusinesses serve rapidly growing urban food markets.

Speaking at the opening of the summit on Sep 8, Gerardine Mukeshimana, Rwanda's minister of agriculture and animal resources, indicated this year's AGRF Summit is one of the key moments defining the continent's future.

"This year's AGRF theme 'Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa' speaks to all of us. Feeding the cities is increasingly becoming a fundamental question, but we barely take time to think about it. I am glad that AGRF partners saw this as an important topic to be discussed this year," Mukeshimana said.

Among the events lined up for the forum was a youth town hall meeting held on Sep 10 attended by Paul Kagame, Rwanda's president.

"I am happy to have interacted with young people at the AGRF youth town hall, which discussed the future of Africa's food systems," Kagame said. "There has never been a better time for young Africans to get involved in agriculture and agribusiness for their own well-being and that of our continent. The potential of agriculture on our continent is vast, but we need to invest more and get more out ofthe investments we have already made."

Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, said discussions at AGRF 2020 will yield solutions for the increasing demand for African products fueling diverse, healthy diets. Challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic, she added, increase the urgency to find local solutions for the continent's food needs.

"The AGRF presents a good opportunity for all stakeholders in the African agricultural value chains to design food systems that are equitable, sustainable and resilient. They should also be capable of meeting the challenges of malnutrition, poverty and climate change, as well as remain responsive to emerging and unforeseen challenges, such as those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," Kalibata said.

Kalibata added Africa is the world's fastest urbanizing region, with an urban population of 472 million that will double over the next 25 years, according to United Nations figures. This increase in urban citizens greatly contributes to an increase in demand for basic staple foods at a rate of 4.8 percent per year.

This is the first time in history the AGRF was held virtually, in line with COVID-19 containment measures. During the summit, technical assessments, policy analyses and political discussions were held to pursue the consensus needed to make farming in Africa productive, profitable, sustainable and inclusive.

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