Tuesday, July 09, 2013

We don't need GMOs to end hunger in Africa - FAO
By Kabanda Chulu
Fri 05 July 2013, 14:00 CAT

WE don't need genetically modified food to end hunger in Africa, says Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) director general Jose Graziano da Silva.

And agriculture minister Robert Sichinga says Zambia is reluctant to support and contribute money to the proposed Africa Solidarity Trust Fund for food security since the country is still struggling to meet the 10 per cent budgetary allocation requirement and facing other challenges.

Answering questions from journalists at the end of the high-level meeting of African and international leaders themed 'Renewed partnership for unified approach to end hunger in Africa by 2025 within the CAADP framework' in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Graziano da Silva said there was need to promote the right to food.
"As we promote the right to food, we should not mix bio technology with genetically modified organisms because the two are different, bio tech is a new science that uses biological processes, organisms, or systems to manufacture products intended to improve the quality of human life. Its application can result in increasing yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming's impact on the environment," said Graziano da Silva. "So we don't need GMOs to end hunger in Africa, what we need is to empower small-scale farmers with technological tools that will make them effective. There are concerns with GMOs but it is a science that, probably, we will need in future."
On concerns that Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) has failed to make positive impact since inception in 2003 and that resolutions of the meeting would just be another piece of paper, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said progress had been made by some countries.
"Our strategies require political commitment; we need policies that should take a multifaceted approach, which is addressing challenges in growing of crops, production, processing and markets, we also need to invest in people because economies requires skilled people, we also need to invest in infrastructure, for example, if women spend longer hours fetching water, this reduces their productivity," she said. "This meeting is not a decision making body but resolutions will not become a piece of paper but will be taken to Heads of States summit for adoption, actually most of the issues are being addressed because no nation can afford not to do anything about hunger. It is a threat to development. Progress has been made with CAADP, we have seen some countries attaining and even exceeding the 10 per cent budgetary allocation and six per cent growth but we are not satisfied since several goals have not been reached."
Last year, during a regional FAO meeting held in Brazzaville, Congo, a proposal was made that a trust fund for food security in Africa and other financing mechanisms be established as a catalytic fund to existing funds.
Giving an update on the fund, FAO deputy general Helena Semedo said FAO would head the steering committee that would involve the AU Commission to provide guidance.
"The fund will help improve productivity, promote climate resilience, and contribute to knowledge promotion and strengthening south-south cooperation. So far, a US$30 million donation was made by Equatorial Guinea, and pledges have been made by Angola, Gabon and Civil Society consortium and the private sector from Congo, DR and Cameroon," said Semedo. "Solidarity among African countries is needed and hunger will be eliminated through a unified approach but we know the fund will not be enough so countries should also look at domestic financing."
But Sichinga said clear guidelines on how the trust fund would be used have not been presented to delegates.
"We have just developed the national agriculture investment plan and it has shown a 50 per cent financing gap on intended projects, and many countries including Zambia are failing to meet CAADP requirement of 10 per cent agricultural budget so how are they going to contribute to this fund?" asked Sichinga. "The guidelines are not clear about this fund and I will have difficulties to convince my government to have additional funds for this trust when there are projects like roads and other infrastructure needed to boost agriculture. We are not rejecting the contributions but there is no concept paper to present to our governments so we need to discuss this further."

In response, Semedo said the fund would be an addition to existing funds.

"This is just a catalytic fund, it is up to AU and NEPAD to decide how to use the funds," she said.

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