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World Food Day, October 16 - “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty”
Established in 1979, World Food Day is a day of action against hunger. Celebrated each year on October 16, it is a day when people around the world declare their commitment to eradicate hunger. World Food Day also celebrates the creation of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, in 1945, in Quebec, Canada.
This year’s theme is “Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty”. Social protection, as defined by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, is concerned with preventing, managing and overcoming situations that adversely affect people’s well-being. Social protection consists of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age.
Agricultural development has a huge contribution to social protection in Africa. Agriculture is the main driver of economic development on the continent, where it is estimated that more than 70% of Africa’s population live and work in rural areas. Agriculture represents over 65 per cent of jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa and thus is their main source of employment and income. Over 60 per cent of rural populations live in extreme poverty (defined as living on $1.25 or less a day) and approximately one in three people experience chronic hunger and are undernourished. There is empirical evidence that higher agriculture productivity can positively impact poverty reduction by increasing rural incomes, reducing food prices in domestic markets, generating economic opportunities in the non-farm sector and stimulating and sustaining economic transformation.
The world is concerned about the global hunger and poverty. The need to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger was presented as the very first Millennium Development Goal 1 and still features prominently as the first and second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Under MDG 1, the world reduced the population living in extreme poverty by 47% in 74 countries. Africa experienced accelerated and strong economic growth. It established ambitious social safety nets, designing policies to boost education and tackle numerous diseases. Nevertheless, growth has not been rapid or inclusive enough to create jobs. Consequently overall poverty rates are still high, hovering around 48 percent. Still, much work remains to be done to ensure living standards improve for all Africans.
Bank activities to address social protection and poverty reduction through agriculture
The African Development Bank’s mission is to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries (RMCs), thus contributing to poverty reduction. It has used different approaches to deliver on this mission.
In the agriculture sector, its main focus has been to enhance agricultural production and productivity. Since 2008, the Bank has shifted its focus to development of rural infrastructure in order to connect agricultural production to markets, provide appropriate storage facilities, and add value as well as increase shelf life of agricultural commodities through agro-processing. This would substantially reduce post-harvest losses estimated at 40% of agricultural production (which has greatly contributed to food shortages as well as nutrition deficiency), bring smallholder farmers nearer to markets, increase value of their produce, and increase trade in agriculture and the welfare of rural communities. Some of the achievements made include construction of all-weather rural and feeder roads that connect villages to the main roads, rural markets and commodity collection centres that create growth nodes in parts of rural areas, agro-processing facilities operated by individual operators or associations (such as milk coolers and dairy products, rice mills and coffee hullers) or leased to private operators, increased access to reliable electricity that in turn supports agro-processing, fish landing and processing facilities.
There is evidence that, even without processing and value addition on agricultural commodities, connecting farmers to markets has increased their incomes as it cuts out middlemen, reduces distances to markets and cost of transport, reduces losses due to lack of markets and delay in transportation, and increases the number of traders and competition.
The Bank has also intervened in other social protection activities such as school feeding programs, cash transfer activities, rural credit schemes especially for women, and skills development for all, including women and youth. The Bank is preparing a new Strategy for Agricultural Transformation in Africa, in partnership with its RMCs, which aims to eradicate hunger by 2025.
AfDB program for World Food Day 2015
This World Food Day, the African Development Bank will organize an event showcasing the Bank’s work in the agriculture sector. A panel discussion followed by a question and answer session will serve as an advocacy tool for future Bank work in the sector.