International Studies & Programs

SADC and Alliance for African Partnership convene regional policy dialogue on climate resilient agrifood systems

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Published: Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022 Author: Abraham Mamela

Logos for SADC, AAP, ReNAPRI, UP, and EU

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat, in collaboration with the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) and two of its members, the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI) and the University of Pretoria (UP), will from 29th to 30th August 2022 convene a regional policy dialogue with key stakeholders to identify interventions that are necessary to build sustainable agri-food systems in the Region.  

The dialogue will be attended by government officials and other key stakeholders involved in agri-food-systems in the SADC Region, such as national and regional policymakers, development partners, academics, researchers, farmers’ representatives and other private sector representatives, civil society organisations (CSOs), women and youth.ReNAPRI and University of Pretoria are implementing partners and members of AAP. ReNAPRI is a network of 12 recognised national agricultural policy research institutes based in 11 African countries, established to generate evidence in support of policy making in Africa.

During this SADC-AAP Dialogue, participants will discuss collective action on the transition towards sustainable and climate-resilient agri-food systems for enhanced food security, ending hunger, and achieving climate objectives in the Region. The dialogue seeks to identify interventions to build agri-food systems’ resilience to shocks and stressors, towards achieving sustainable food security, poverty reduction and economic growth in the Region. 

The conference is also meant to prepare SADC Member States for the 2023 African Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit. It will discuss options for SADC Members States to collectively act on the transition towards sustainable and climate-resilient food systems and will provide a platform for interaction involving experts, policy makers, farmer organisations, private sector, and cooperating partners to discuss what needs to be done to ensure that the Region’s agri-food systems are more sustainable and resilient to shocks.

The dialogue follows the recent SADC-AAP Dialogue on Youth Employment through Employment and Entrepreneurship Development in the SADC Region, which was held on 4th and 5th April 2022, Gaborone, Botswana. Strengthening of the collaboration between the SADC Secretariat and AAP is among the various outcomes of a meeting held in October 2021, between Vice-Chancellors from four SADC universities and the SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Elias Mpedi Magosi. The meeting highlighted a crucial need a need for deepening collaboration between SADC and higher education and affiliate research institutions in the Region in the implementation of SADC’s developmental priorities to address the multitude of challenges that have, for decades, impinged on the growth of the Region. 

The upcoming SADC-AAP Dialogue on AGRI-FOOD SYSTEMS in Pretoria is therefore an outcome of some of the priorities that the AAP Vice-Chancellors and the SADC Executive Secretary agreed, one of priority areas of action, among others, in Member States and the Region, is that of strengthening the Region’s agri-food systems by understanding issues from the points of view of relevant key stakeholders, that is, ensuring that evidence and stakeholder validation plays a key role in supporting policy processes.   

The regional dialogue comes against the background of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) held during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on 23 September 2021, which set the stage for global food systems transformation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

This summit was followed by the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference on the Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021.  During COP26, countries agreee to transit towards sustainable and climate-resilient food systems in response to the vulnerability of agriculture to the impacts of climate change. This global consensus is aimed at acheiving food security, ending hunger, and attaining climate objectives, including emissions reductions.

Globally, agri-food systems – basically defined as a series of activities and institutions around the production, processing, distribution, marketing, and consumption of a particular food item – are increasingly under pressure to meet the rising food demand and changing dietary preferences and, all this in the face of climate and economic shocks. 

This challenge is especially pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) , where food production will need to increase in the range of 60-80% in order to meet the projected three-fold rise in cereal demand and where the population is estimated to reach 2.2 billion by 2050. SADC is not an exception to this challenge as the Region faces a high population growth rate and demographic transition which will fuel growing food demand and rapidly changing dietary preferences, in a region that has limited growth of manufacturing and service sectors. 

SADC is also challenged by increasing intensity and frequency of climate shocks, a declining natural resource base, soil nutrient mining, depletion and pollution of water sources, and high greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Other related issues impacting the sustainability of agri-food systems in SADC can be categorised under macroeconomic shocks including commodity price volatility as well as energy, fertilizer, fiscal and monetary policy, trade, foreign exchange reserves, and exchange rate constraints.

To be able to respond to this challenge, there is a need for an agri-food systems transformation focused on devising interventions that align with the current and projected agri-food systems dynamics. Furthermore, SADC Member States would require collective action at the regional, rather than national level, to transit towards sustainable and climate-resilient food systems. 

It is expected that the dialogue will result in the 2023 African Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit concept being understood by SADC stakeholders; agri-food systems in the SADC Region will be mapped/analysed; and that dynamics and issues surrounding agri-food systems in the SADC Region will be explored and understood. The dialogue is also expected to identify possible pathways for change; explore viability of suggested pathways; and identify policy and investment areas aimed at improving the sustainability of agri-food systems.