27th Africa Regional Conference of the FAO held in Congo Brazzaville-Seychelles rallies FAO help for agricultural growth


Minister Sinon shakes hands with FAO director general Da Silva in the presence of Mr Moustache (2nd right)

Seychelles was represented at the 27th Africa Regional Conference of the FAO by the Minister for Natural Resources and Industry Peter Sinon and senior adviser Antoine-Marie Moustache, who is also the FAO national correspondent.

The conference, held in Congo Brazzaville from April 23-27, was attended by representatives of 49 of the 53 member states of the African Union (AU).

Following deliberations between the Seychelles delegation and Professor Da Silva, it was mutually agreed that the FAO will immediately provide technical help to Seychelles in four definite areas, namely in:

•  Defining a national framework known as the Country Programming Framework which will provide a portfolio of project proposals in the natural resources sector which are liable for help by the FAO; 

• Helping formulate the CAADP’s investment plan;
• Conducting a study as to the feasibility of setting up a few agro tourism farms on the plateau of Grand Anse Mahe; and

• Giving technical cooperation programme support to implement the recommendations of the final audit report of the national livestock sector completed by the FAO in March 2012.

Indeed with the proposed reforms of the FAO discussed conference, it is the wish of AU member states to see much more hands-on help of the FAO to help them in their efforts in eliminating hunger by half by 2015.

Besides, AU member states committed themselves to the setting up of the Africa Trust Fund which would raise resources on the continent to fight hunger.

In the meantime, Minister Sinon is following up on the discussions initiated with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in November 2011 in securing an agricultural investment fund to reinvigorate the national agricultural sector which has been lacking much-needed capital inputs during the past 15 years.  
The Africa regional conference of the FAO is a gathering of the states of the African Union held every two years and has principally three objectives:

• It gives AU member states the opportunity to review achievements in natural resources management or agriculture which include forestry, fisheries, livestock and arable cropping in the preceding two years;

• It sets priorities for the forthcoming two years; and
• It defines the challenges and opportunities ahead in meeting their objectives to the achievement of better national food security status.  

In reviewing the undertakings and achievements for the past two years, AU member states cited mostly progress made in the execution of the Africa wide framework for agricultural development, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Issues which have affected national food production during the last two years varied in the AU member states. Serious droughts in countries of the Horn of Africa, which include among others Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, impacted importantly on national food production, significantly threatening their efforts in feeding their people.

Elsewhere on the mainland, regional strife took its toll on national activities and food production. In Madagascar, political instability continues to have major repercussions on economic progress, national productivity, inclusive of food output. 

Piracy in Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone and outside has caused havoc to the country’s trade, tourism and fisheries industries. Fish, being a traditional protein source accounting for some 40% of protein consumed, became extremely scarce. This led to significant price hikes for the much sought-after commodity, leading to serious implications to national food security. The latter consequence was amplified and aggravated by the major downturn in the national livestock sub-sector, in particular broiler poultry meat production.

Minister Sinon lamented on these food security issues during the plenary session of the 27th Africa Regional Conference of the FAO, highlighting as well as emphasising on some of the unique threats faced by small island developing states within the AU.

Countries pin hopes on CAADP

As all AU member states including Seychelles chart their way ahead for the next few years, they pinned even greater hopes on the CAADP which gained added visibility at the said conference as an instrument to chart and spearhead agricultural development.  The CAADP has become an instrument through which agricultural development priorities are being set. The programme is allowing AU member states to harmonise their approaches, not forgetting country specificities and coordinating the mobilisation of necessary funds – domestic and international – towards agricultural development. It was unanimously acknowledged that following the food crisis and subsequent financial crisis of 2008, and the more recent fuel price hikes, this African strategy for the enhancement of food and nutrition security has been given a new lease of life.

The 27th Africa Regional Conference of the FAO learned that different AU member states are at different stages in the implementation process of the CAADP. Initially, the decision taken at the AU summit in Mozambique in 2003 gave birth to the Maputo declaration which launched the CAADP process based on a commitment by the said member states to significantly increase budget allocation to food producing sub-sectors to achieve an annual average growth rate of six percent.

Seychelles joined other AU member states and signed the declaration. Essentially, the CAAPD is a four-step process namely:
(i) The conduct of the stock-taking exercise;
(ii) The formulation and the signing of the CAADP Compact;
(iii)  The formulation of the related Investment Programme and
(iv) The conduct of a fund mobilisation round table for the proposed key investments to enhance food production, value addition, market access and the country’s food and nutrition security.

To date, just over a dozen AU member states have put together an investment plan to gather financial support for national agricultural development. Indeed, finance is a major ingredient to provide additional impetus in national agricultural development.

Seychelles launched the CAADP process in October 2007 at the same time it launched the Agricultural Development Strategy 2007-2011 which has provided the blue print for the national agricultural development in the last five years. After some setbacks, appointed national consultants with the help of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) undertook the mandatory stocktaking exercise which culminated in the Compact signing ceremony in September 2011. This saw the commitment of both foreign and local partners to a grand revival of the national agricultural sector.  The formulation of the Compact’s Investment Plan remains the next major step in the CAADP process – a step which is already engaged.

The use of CAADP’s four traditional pillars for agricultural development is proving to be a widely adopted framework by AU member states for the forthcoming few years, also providing the base for setting national priorities in national agricultural development. Mainland African states will preoccupy themselves with a large scope of development approaches, namely in agricultural infrastructure, irrigation facilities, marketing of agricultural produces, research and development with adaptation to climate change, pests and diseases management, fisheries and agro forestry, reducing post-harvest losses, agricultural produce transformation, human capacity building, empowering small producers, etc.

Seychelles’ agricultural development objectives and foci within its CAADP for the next five years or so are already captured in the Compact document. Evidently to be in conformity with the universal format adopted, Seychelles’ document reflects under five pillars, namely:

Pillar 1: Protection and sustainable use of agricultural land and infrastructure;
Pillar 2: Agricultural research, irrigation and extension;
Pillar 3: Sustainable fisheries development;
Pillar 4: Marketing and trade of agricultural produce;
Pillar 5: Food and nutrition security.
However, before the gains of the CAADP can be perceived an essential last step is required – the formulation of the investment plan to direct donors’ funds in supporting the proposed agricultural development.  

Barriers to agricultural development

As AU member states at the 27th Africa Regional Conference of the FAO pondered on the challenges ahead that will mar their efforts to further agricultural development, impacts of climate change seemed to stand out as one of the major impediments, but certainly not the only barrier to this endeavour. 

Seychelles has its own set of barriers and opportunities. In Seychelles, agricultural land shortages and potential losses to other economic sectors will continue to threaten this sector.

Marketing of agricultural produce, produce transformation, human capacity enhancement, access to affordable credit facilities, widespread access to irrigation water, use of appropriate technologies especially those that adapt to climate change, institutional support, relevant infrastructure, pests and diseases management along with a definite revival of the livestock subsector seem to stand out as major pre-occupations which will require dedicated efforts and investment.

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