Food security is one of the biggest threats facing not only the Commonwealth, but millions of people around the world. Compounded by climate change, soaring food prices and geopolitical issues, millions are at risk of not being able to access necessary nutrition.
The constraints affecting agriculture in Africa are a further obstacle, but digitalisation of the agriculture sector and policy recommendations to Commonwealth member governments can help overcome these challenges.
Food security challenges in African Commonwealth countries
Agriculture is vitally important to many Commonwealth economies – particularly in Africa where it contributes to 17 per cent of GDP and employs over 42 per cent of the population in member countries.
There are several challenges facing the African agriculture sector. The majority of farmers, traders and MSMEs operate informally, limiting their capacity to access finance and investment, a prerequisite for increased productivity.
While speaking at the High-Level Plenary at the 12th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), the Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said:
“To truly deliver on food security, we must embrace partnership. Multilateral organisations must work together. Governments must work together. Businesses and civil society organisations must work together. Under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, we are developing policy frameworks for every Commonwealth country to use and mainstream digital agriculture in domestic policy.”
What is being done to tackle food insecurity?
Throughout the AGRF, the Secretary-General highlighted practical action in five key areas around delivering food security to member countries through Commonwealth Secretariat programmes. These five areas include:
- The Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda
- The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter
- The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub
- The Commonwealth Blue Charter
- Commonwealth Youth and Gender mainstreaming
Concluding her speech, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of harnessing data, especially with regards to the use of big data, and utilising it as early warning systems for land degradation and to energise regenerative agriculture. An example of this is the partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
The Commonwealth Secretariat utilises satellite observation data to map and model climate hazards in Commonwealth countries and analyse their impact on the food system.
Digital Agriculture and the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda
Benjamin Addom, Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda Advisor for Agriculture and Fisheries Trade Policy, explained that for digital agriculture to thrive in Commonwealth countries, there must be four support pillars in place: digital agriculture innovations, agriculture data infrastructure, business development and enabling environment for digitalisation.
Meetings following up from CHOGM 2022
During the visit to Rwanda for the ARGF Summit, the Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Vincent Biruta, and a number of other Ministers, including from Youth and Culture, Information and Technology and the Environment.
The focus of these bilateral meetings was to follow up on the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting’s communiqué and agreed actions. The empowerment of women and young people and Commonwealth Secretariat support to Rwanda, African member countries and the wider Commonwealth were also discussed.
Reinforcing this, the Secretary-General stated:
“We cannot achieve climate-resilient food systems without the central participation of women and young people. Gender and youth are mainstreamed into all Commonwealth programmes, with special regard to the disproportionate impacts they face from issues such as climate change and food insecurity.”
The Secretary-General also met with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Director-General with whom she recently signed an MoU, the President of Global Growth & Opportunity Division from the Gates Foundation and other organisations.
David Walji Deputy Digital Content Editor, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat