Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, November 19, 2012

Africa's role in solving the global food crisis

Graça Machel, Founder and President, 
Foundation for Community Development 
talking about achieving food and nutrition security
15 - 16 November 2012. Johannesburg. THE Economist hosted a conference in with an ambitious goal: Feeding the World: Africa's Role in Solving the Global Food Crisis

Feeding 9 billion people is an ambitious goal and as befits a conference of this nature, a mixed bag of stakeholders have gathered from around the world.

The tough nut to crack floated to the surface early on - getting public-private partnerships (PPP) to work.

Graça Machel, renowned for her work as Mozambique's minister of education and culture in decades past, opened the conference with a frank, sleeves rolled-up approach to the topic.

Her message resonated through a folk saying in her mother tongue: "Your neighbour's granary will never fill your stomach."

This anti-dependency stance is a breath of fresh air in an entitlement-filled smog generated by the "we demand" squad. Machel's focus on dignified work differentiated her message from the cacophony of calls for job creation. Drawing a line between a job and work, she emphasised that a job solves the short-term problem while work - specifically entrepreneurial work - is more likely to lead to dignified labour.

This addition of the dignity factor is a welcome entrant to the employment conversation. It spotlights the need for agriculturally-focused entrepreneurship startup kits, namely access to capital, land, skills, consumables and markets. On the heels of Machel's message, Global Alliance for Improved Nutritional Gain (GAIN) chairperson, Jay Naidoo of Cosatu fame, emphasised the need for coordination between the various stakeholders - specifically woman farmers - to facilitate successful smallhold farming.

Naidoo highlighted the message being transmitted from his work at GAIN, from women at the base of the pyramid. He emphasised that these women are clear on what they need and want: land, seeds, fertilizer, implements - and business skills to manage these inputs.

The only surprise here was the acknowledgement that business skills are needed, which reinforces the opinion that a less parochial view can be taken on these women, a message subsequently drummed in by Sheila Sisulu of the World Food Programme.

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