Fighting Two Battles with One Dialogue

By Amanda Stone

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer for FANRPAN in Pretoria, South Africa (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Last week Namibia hosted the 2010 FANRPAN (Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network) Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue, bringing together over 200 African and global policymakers, farmers, agricultural product dealers, scientists, and non-governmental organizations. The purpose of the conference was to address African priorities on food security and climate change and how agricultural development, natural resource management and rural livelihoods will be affected.  An annual regional food security policy discussion, this year’s particular focus was on livestock and fisheries policies in the face of climate change.

During the Dialogue the President of Namibia, Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, was awarded the 2010 FANRPAN Food Security Policy Leadership Award for his creation of responsible fisheries policies in the country. In Namibia, the fishing industry has grown to be the second biggest export earner of income and has produced 14,000 new jobs in a population of 1.7 million people, supporting not just individuals’ livelihoods but also their communities.

While the fisheries and livestock sectors are now being recognized as a new means for entering markets and generating wealth, they are also the most at risk in the face of climate change. For the 200 million Africans who rely on livestock for their livelihoods (plus the 70 percent of rural poor who keep livestock) and the 10 million Africans dependent on work in fisheries, climate change has serious implications. As climate patterns change so does the spatial distribution of agro-ecological zones and habitats, distribution patters of plant diseases and pests, fish populations and ocean circulation patterns, in addition to the potential for extreme weather events such as drought. All of these factors can have significant impacts on agriculture and food production. Thus the growth of these sectors requires research and collaboration, investments of time, technology, policies and knowledge networks that address these risks.

Africa’s history of underinvestment in agriculture is being addressed by the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).  Agricultural policies and programs dedicated to supporting farmers, according to a July 2010 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, have the potential to create a more secure food supply in the future across Africa, but the effort must be regionally integrated.  FANRPAN, a network of researchers, farmers and governments working in 14 Southern African countries, is helping the coordination and implementation of these programs at national and regional levels.

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive of FANRPAN, said, “FANRPAN was set up to create a food-secure Africa which can feed itself. To do this, success stories must be understood, replicated and scaled up.” In order to better facilitate regional program replication, coordination and implementation FANRPAN is expanding its network across the continent. At the conference the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was announced as the 14th member of the FANRPAN Network. Through this new DRC affiliate FANRPAN will be able to work with government agencies, farmers, researchers, civil society organizations and the media which, according to Dr Sibanda, “will be vital in FANRPAN’s continued success to create conducive policy environments for Africa’s farmers.”

To read about Nourishing the Planet’s visit with FANRPAN in South Africa see: FANRPAN: Working to connect farmers, researchers, and policy makers in Africa, Acting It Out for Advocacy, and Innovative Ways of Hearing Farmers’ Voices.

Amanda Stone is the Communications Assistant for Nourishing the Planet.

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