In order to achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition in ACP countries, agri-food systems need to be significantly transformed. The role of agriculture for inclusive growth and the successful achievement of the SDGs was examined at a high-level panel, co-organised by the ACP Secretariat and CTA, in Papua New Guinea on 8 July 2016. The panel concluded that investment in agribusiness across the value chain is essential to ensure agriculture in ACP countries becomes commercially competitive and economically sustainable.
Experts at the event agreed that ensuring the future sustainability and affordability of food should be a matter of priority for the public and private sector in ACP countries. It is anticipated that 9 billion people will have to be fed by 2050, many of whom will come from developing countries already facing labour shortages, climate change risks, demographic shifts and migration away from rural areas. Michael Hailu, Director of CTA, argues that for ACP countries in particular, this means that "agriculture must be transformed into a profitable business if it is to become a real engine for growth."
Agriculture at the heart of sustainable development in ACP countries
Constituting 79 countries across three continents, the ACP group represents a significant share of developing countries for whom agriculture is part of the social fabric and a key source of employment and nutritious food. Notwithstanding agriculture’s importance, agrifood systems in ACP countries suffer from a lack of investment, poor infrastructure, limited access to affordable technological resources and other inputs, vulnerability to climate change, and high levels of exposure to commodity price fluctuations, as they rely on the export of low value-added goods.
These are concerns directly addressed in SDG 2 whose five targets focus on improving food and nutrition security, and agriculture. Agricultural productivity, small-scale food producers (particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers), secure and equal access to land and other productive resources and inputs, such as knowledge, financial services, markets, and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment are all included in the second SDG. Other SDGs also address important food and agricultural issues, including women empowerment, post-harvest and food losses, access to land and regulation of fishing.
Transforming agriculture: an imperative that can be achieved
"Agriculture is a key sector for most ACP countries in terms of economic growth, employment and nutrition," noted ACP Assistant Secretary General, Henrique Banze, who made the opening remarks at the event. However, in order for agrifood systems to contribute to sustainable development of ACP countries, to counter poverty, malnutrition and unemployment, they need to be significantly transformed. "By looking at the countries that have succeeded in transforming their sector, we can learn that agroindustry and agribusiness are clear avenues for inclusive growth," Banze went on to add.
Transformation of the agricultural sector entails greater support for ACP agribusiness development and private sector development. The ACP group is already exploring strategies to advance agriculture and fisheries products, which can compete in local, regional and international markets.
"As a source of employment for the majority of ACP populations, agriculture is crucial to poverty reduction and sustainable development. With the large number of young women and men entering the labour market each year and not finding jobs easily, more efforts should be exerted to make agriculture attractive and remunerative for youth," emphasised Michael Hailu. He also proposed that achieving "this requires a mindset change among policymakers and farmers, as well as a significant investment by the public and private sector".
Janet Sape, Executive Director of PNG Women in Business, concurred as a representative of the private sector. She told the panel that "the lack of access to markets was among the biggest challenges for women in Papua New Guinea," and this has to be addressed with innovative financial services suited to the needs of producers. This demand led her to set up the PNG Women in Business Micro-Bank, providing a concrete example of successful grassroots interventions that can help empower local producers and agribusinesses.
The high-level panel on sustainable agriculture and food security was organised jointly by the ACP Secretariat and CTA, at the 8th ACP Summit of Heads of State and Government in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The panel was made up of Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia; Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Janet Sape, Executive Director of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Women in Business; Peter Seligmann, CEO of Conservation International; and Pa'olelei Luteru, Ambassador of Samoa to Belgium and the European Union. Participants included ACP ministers and senior government officials, policymakers and representatives of international organisations.