May 28th, 2013 6:24 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
As many of you will know, May 25 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African Union and its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. It is now known as Africa Freedom Day.
It was a seminal moment 50 years ago when heads of state from 32 African countries—most of them being newly independent on the world stage—met together in Addis Ababa to chart a unified vision for a free and liberated continent that was still emerging from colonialism. The African Union now counts 54 states amongst its members. This week’s celebrations looked back on 50 years of historic struggle for self-determination and achievement while also acknowledging the very real challenges still plaguing the continent. This was well captured in the 21st African Union Summit’s theme of “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance,” which concluded yesterday.
ONE’s Africa Team was there to take part in this celebration and gathering of all the continent’s leaders. We used the opportunity to engage political leaders and build public support on issues which ONE campaigns on.
Our Agriculture campaign continues to build momentum toward the African Union’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security in 2014. In keeping with the celebratory nature of the week, we worked with the AU Commission (AUC), ACORD and ActionAid to host a panel session in the African Youth Forum on Thursday. We also jointly hosted a press conference with a broad array of African and international media present.
I was joined at the press conference and the panel session by an incredible range of voices, including Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel, the AUC’s Director for Rural Economy and Agriculture; Sara Yapwa, a Nigerian woman farmer; Mr. Biranchi Upadhyaya, ActionAid’s International Programs Director; Boaz Keizerie, Special Advisor to the Rural Economy and Agriculture Commissioner at the AUC; and Vincent Rapeta, a young South African farmer.
We emphasised that it was important for countries to meet the commitment to allocate 10% of national budgets to agriculture (as laid out in the 2003 Maputo Declaration) to demonstrate accountability. However, the quality of investment and its impact on smallholder farmers is also crucial to track, and my fellow panellists provided each of their unique perspectives.
Dr. Abebe spoke about the importance of African countries developing their rural economies, almost as a precondition to developing agriculture. He said that not only must we provide affordable inputs and resources for agricultural production but also for supporting agro industries as well. This is what’s needed to attract youth in the sector, as the African Union is concerned that youth are not participating sufficiently in agriculture. However, according to Dr. Abebe, the future African farmer will be younger, more educated and possess sophisticated business acumen with access to information and have higher aspirations than today’s farmers.
Sara, the Nigerian farmer, implored governments to keep their commitments. She spoke about the need for farmer’s voices to be included in policy making as they know what hurts most in the risky business of farming. Mr. Upadhyaya further called for a fair deal for small holder farmers and a timetable for African states to meet their Maputo commitments.
Then Vincent, whose full story you can read here, spoke about his own experience of starting a career in agriculture and how he hasn’t turned his back since. He also spoke about the challenges he faces in accessing finance and land while ensuring high quality in his produce. With perseverance he has been able to overcome these challenges and obtain more land for cultivation, but is aware that this is not assured for all young people in South Africa. He mentioned there are times when those who don’t farm—like doctors and teachers—receive land re-distributed by the government. Youth in the audience were inspired and challenged to hear from a youth farmer, as land access emerged as a key issue for them.
On Friday, we joined the Youth Forum again at a plenary with African Presidents from Liberia, Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Senegal along with AUC Chair Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma. The event was an intergenerational dialogue where youth debated with their presidents about the AU’s past, its current challenges and how the AU will provide opportunities for youth to be included in decision-making. The lack of progress on Maputo’s 10% was also raised. It was an energetic dialogue moderated by the BBC’s Zeinab Badawi. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma called on African leaders to have regular interface with young people at national and continental levels.
All in all, the past week was an incredible opportunity to connect, critically take stock and assess the positive gains made in the economic and political development of Africa over the last five decades. We at ONE are honoured to have been a small part of the celebrations and look forward to the next 50 years of progress.
May 23rd, 2013 2:12 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is Vincent Rapeta, a young farmer from South Africa. He is speaking at the African Union Youth Forum in Addis Ababa this week as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.
I’m Vincent and I come from Limpopo Province in South Africa. I’m 28 and a farmer. I grow maize, butternut squash, watermelon, tomato, beetroot and cabbages. I am a farmer by accident but I’m loving it.
I was raised by a single parent and we were very poor when I was growing up. I think that my mother earned R5000 a year. In today’s US dollars, that is just over $500.
I had dreams of becoming an auditor and fighting corruption but we didn’t have money to send me to university. But I did have an opportunity. I was helping my mother while I was in school on our small plot of two hectares. And after I was done with school, I started helping her full time- that’s how I became a farmer.
Our produce started being noticed for its quality and in 2006, the local Department of Agriculture selected me to attend an agriculture training programme where I learned about soil quality, when to plant certain crops and also special knowledge about growing tomatoes, which are higher value crops. I eventually got my own plot and started expanding the amount of produce we could grow, and began to employ some local people to help me manage my plots and harvests.
In 2010, I went to school again to learn about the business side of farming and best management practices. I learned about finances, communications, labour and best standards for my produce. In 2011, I won the Best Farmer award in Molemole Municipality. I was so excited.
Last year I decided to expand my operation and was able to obtain 20 hectares from the traditional council in my area and another 20 from the municipality. I am now trying to get those plots of land suitable for farming as they are still covered in bush. I’ve had to spend my savings to clear the land and drill boreholes for irrigation, but hope to be up and running by the end of this year.
Farming is hard work. It is very challenging, but so rewarding. I think there are three main challenges for young farmers like me.
First, we need access to land and financial services. I have been very lucky – an elderly neighbour allowed me to farm her plot and I also had my mother’s plot to start from. Not all of my fellow young South Africans without work have been so fortunate. South Africa is redistributing its land but it often goes to people who don’t make a living from it. A doctor will get a few hectares where I live, but then wake up and go to his job.
Banks require security and collateral for loans. Hail can ruin one season’s harvest. I’ve saved and have been able to use this to expand, but we need insurance and loans to help us move forward. When we take the risk, we need government to meet us half way in managing these costs.
Second, we need to challenge the perception that informal sector farmers like myself provide poor quality produce. I was once told by a buyer for a big market that he wouldn’t buy tomatoes from black farmers. And this was a black man telling me this. He would buy spinach and butternut but not tomatoes. So we must try to promote the real quality of food that informal farmers produce.
And finally, we need access to fair markets. As we plan our crop we need to be sure that it will not go to waste. In Limpopo I am lucky that the food bank buys my tomatoes and my income is assured, other youth farmers in the rest of the country don’t have the same opportunities. We need policies that support the development of crop markets so that farmers can increase their harvest, earn more income and improve their families’ lives.
All I can say is that here is so much opportunity in farming. I think young people all over Africa should look to farming to improve their lives and improve our continent. We’re always crying of not having jobs. Well, we can find land. We’re not disabled. Why can’t we just make our own job? Our governments just need to make it easier by building roads that lead to markets and by providing marketing information and training to farmers.
I dream of owning 1000 hectares in ten years where I can have a herd of cattle and provide so many jobs to contribute to poverty alleviation. I know this is possible and with the right policies from government, all of us here will be farming.
May 10th, 2013 12:10 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
In a few weeks, the UK government will host a major international event in London called Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science. Happening just days before the 2013 G8 Summit in Lough Erne, it will bring together governments, businesses, scientists and civil society to examine strategies that could improve the quality and quantity of food available to the world’s poorest people.
Back in March I attended a highly energised meeting of African civil society organisations in Ethiopia, who had gathered for Africa’s biggest annual forum on agriculture and where we launched our report A Growing Opportunity. We all agreed an urgent message needed to be sent to the international community before the June summit in the UK.
As a result, ONE together with 36 other African organisations have written to UK Prime Minister Cameron asking his government to ensure that African-led agriculture is at the heart of the Nutrition for Growth event, and specifically the existing CAADP plans.
CAADP stands for the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program. It has already created momentum to reform agriculture in 40 out of 53 African countries and many more are joining. This makes it the single best existing framework that would support the G8 to deliver excellent results from their food security and nutrition investments on the continent.
CAADP will also become the central organising vehicle for the African Union year of Agriculture in 2014. African states have committed themselves become more accountable to their people on accelerated progress in fighting hunger and helping small-holder farmers access better investment, technology and markets to sell their produce.
African leadership, political will and investment is critical to realising the poverty reducing potential of African agriculture. The private sector and international community also has a very important supporting role to play in investing in African-led agriculture.
Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, has said, “Africa has potential, but it cannot eat potential. More coordinated action is needed”.
Rather than re-invent the wheel, the G8 must build on the momentum growing across Africa and fund the agriculture plans already in place.
Aug 20th, 2012 11:12 AM UTC
By Nealon DeVore
As many of our readers know, last month ONE delivered its Thrive petition signed by almost 35,000 African citizens to the African Union Chair President Yayi Boni of Benin.
President Boni and Benin’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Nassirou Bako Arifari promised to take our petition to the full African Union in order to promote investments in Africa’s agriculture sector across the continent. We know that with proper investments and planning in farms and food supplies, African governments could help lift 31 million African citizens out of poverty and prevent 12 million children from suffering the effects of stunted growth due to malnutrition.
We have a great video of the petition delivery, which features ONE’s Africa Director Dr. Sipho S. Moyo, along with sporting legend Haile Gebrselassie, who delivered the petition on behalf of ONE members across the continent, and Benin’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Nassirou Bako Arifari.
Watch the video here:
This comes at a great time as we make real progress in the race against hunger. Haile Gebrselassie joined ONE, our partners, and a few of his fellow Olympians at a Hunger Summit just as the 2012 Olympics closed.
Stay tuned for more updates in our campaigns. These last 4 months of 2012 hold a lot of potential for our campaigns to increase food security and opportunity all over the continent.
Jul 24th, 2012 10:30 AM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Guest blog post from sporting legend Haile Gebrselassie.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of working with ONE at the African Union Summit here in Addis Ababa. I was both honoured and humbled to be asked to join them in delivering your petition signed by almost 35,000 African citizens to the African Union Chair His Excellency President Yayi Boni of Benin.
The petition asks for African leaders to invest in agriculture and nutrition to lift 31 million Africans out of poverty and prevent 12 million children from stunted growth. I can gladly say we succeeded in doing this, and what a momentous occasion it was.
Before we delivered the petition, I met with some amazing ONE members from Addis Ababa, who were there to represent the thousands of ONE members who had signed the petition. It was exciting to hear from them about ONE and our Thrive campaign. Their spirit certainly carried through to the petition delivery.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie with other ONE members at the 2012 African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
President Boni had planned to join us on Friday, but unfortunately through a number of complications, his arrival in Addis Ababa was delayed. Luckily enough, His Excellency had his Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Nassirou Arifari-Bako, stepped in and received the petition on his behalf.
Haile Gebrselassie presents ONE’s petition.
The following press conference was a great success, especially when the Honorable Minister announced during his speech that 2013 must be the year of agriculture across Africa. I am particularly excited about this commitment from the AU as a citizen of this beautiful and rich continent.
Thank you to all the ONE members for supporting this campaign. We now have our work cut out for us to ensure this becomes a reality!
Haile Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has held at least 27 world records in various distances.
Jul 19th, 2012 3:28 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Earlier this week, South African Home Affairs Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma became the first-ever female head of the African Union (AU) Commission after emerging the winner of a hard-fought election for this important post. The incumbent was Dr. Jean Ping (from Gabon) who served the continent since 2008. ONE thanks Dr. Ping for his leadership of the African Union Comission over the past four years and congratulates Zuma, the AU and the African continent on her election as Chair of the AU Commission.
There is no question that Zuma will need to hit the ground running. ONE is hopeful that she will bring a new sense of inclusiveness to the AU. This means not only sensitively healing rifts caused during the election (which included 6 months of deadlock after an inconclusive vote in January), but also bringing African citizens more into conversations about the future of their continent.
This is especially critical as the world begins to discuss the post- Millennium Development Goals development agenda. The AU, African governments and international partners have a central role to play in in this process, but Africa’s post-2015 strategy will not succeed unless African citizens – the most important stakeholders – are brought into it.
In terms of issues, Zuma will have to work on parallel tracks. One track to address the ongoing political challenges facing the continent in countries like Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, where Zuma’s diplomatic experience will no doubt be an asset to the AU. In addition, she’ll need to focus on another equally critical track – the social and economic issues facing the continent. We know that food security, economic growth, health and other issues are essential to unlocking progress on the continent and securing a prosperous, peaceful future for African citizens. The AU needs to play a strong leadership role in both raising these issues and encouraging real commitments and actions from Member States.
ONE looks forward to working closely with Zuma on this front. Last week, we joined ONE members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to deliver a petition from more than 33,000 African citizens asking AU to lift 31 million people out of poverty and prevent 12 million children from stunting by investing in agriculture and food security. After receiving the petition on behalf of AU Chair and Beninese President Yay Boni, Beninese Foreign Minister Dr. Nassirou Bako-Arifari called for 2013 to be the “Year of African Agriculture” at the AU, focused on recommitting to and revitalizing the Maputo targets.
ONE is hopeful that Zuma will not only be a new ally in this endeavor but actually a champion, celebrating the successes and best practices and encouraging the Members States which are lagging behind to do more.
Jul 13th, 2012 1:33 PM UTC
By Nora Coghlan
The 19th African Union Summit kicked off earlier this week here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The official theme of the summit is Intra-African trade, but a lot of other issues will be on the table when the 53 African Heads of State meet this Sunday.
Though the election for the head of the AU is grabbing most of the media headlines, we were excited to hear another message come through – a call for focusing on agriculture and food security. At her press conference on Wednesday morning, the AU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, called on African leaders to invest their own resources into agriculture, saying “We must get Africa to take its destiny within its own hands. That’s why I’m talking about marshaling resources from within the continent.”
She also stressed the need for African leaders to recruit new partners – such as young people and the private sector (especially through the new GROW Initiative) – in this effort.
Her words could not be timelier. Next year marks the tenth anniversary of the Maputo commitments, whereby African governments promised to increase spending on agriculture to 10% of their budgets and reach agricultural growth targets of 6%.
We know these targets could transform the African continent. Over 33,000 ONE members across the continent have signed our petition asking the AU lift 31 million of its people out of poverty and prevent 12 million children from stunting.
This evening we’ll be handing our petition to AU Chair and President of Benin, HE Yayi Boni alongside Ethiopian Olympic marathon winner Haile Gebrselassie and ONE members here in Addis.
Stay tuned here to the ONE Africa Blog and the @ONEinAfrica twitter account for updates.
Aug 26th, 2011 11:48 AM UTC
By Nora Coghlan
African governments and institutions committed nearly $350 million for famine relief yesterday at the African Union’s first-ever pledging conference. Coming together under the banner “One Africa – One Voice Against Hunger,” panelists and participants called for African solidary and united action to respond to the Horn’s worst drought in 60 years.
The collective effort demonstrated by the AU is a solid first step that should be applauded. The African Development Bank accounted for the vast majority of the pledge, committing $300 million for programs over a five-year period. Notable individual contributions were made by Algeria (pledging $10 million), South Africa ($10 million), Egypt ($5 million), Angola ($5 million) and the Democratic Republic of Congo ($5 million). Another nine countries made $1-3 million pledges (including Africa’s newest country of South Sudan), and a handful more made smaller cash and in-kind donations.
Though the AU is facing criticism for the size of its commitment, the precedent set at yesterday’s summit is an important one that should be applauded. As the BBC’s Martin Plaut points out, the AU was never designed to be a fundraising organization and the conference “charts a new course” for the institution.
Acknowledging that the AU is often criticized for its “slow and inadequate” responses to emergencies, AU Commissioner Jean Ping urged participants to take note of other important contributions made by African states, such Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti’s hosting of Somali refugees and troops sent to Mogadishu by Uganda and Burundi.
UN Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Miguro also applauded African efforts, noting that “above all, this crisis is being tackled by local people and institutions.” She warned that a future generation is hanging in the balance, and commended the AU for taking its “rightful place at the forefront of the response.”
Similar to pledges made by traditional donors, clarity is needed around many yesterday’s commitments. This is especially true for South Africa (whose $10 million pledge included private donations) and countries that contributed to the $350 million commitment from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) last week (including Algeria, Egypt and Gabon). AU Vice-Commissioner Erastus Mwencha said the AU was working with outside institutions to track commitments and monitor their delivery.
In the months ahead, it is also critical that Africans lead the campaign to develop long-term solutions to prevent future crises. Many of yesterday’s presenters reiterated that experts were predicting the drought months ahead of time; Prime Minister Meles Zenawi dedicated most of his remarks to outlining the measures taken to prepare for the drought in Ethiopia, which he said kept the country from slipping into famine.
Since yesterday’s summit was designed to respond to the crisis, the lack of concrete commitments towards long-term food security was not surprising. There was also no mention of the pledges by many African governments to allocate 10% of their national budgets towards agricultural development (known as the Maputo targets).
When delegates meet in Kenya next month to discuss long-term solutions to drought and famine, these targets should be on the forefront of the agenda. Doing so would demonstrate that African governments are not only stepping up to respond to the current emergency, but are also committed to providing the leadership necessary to prevent these crises in the future.
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