Eastern Africa parliamentarians commit to safeguard Right to Food
Recognizing the slow progress in improving the food security and nutrition situation in Eastern Africa, parliamentarians from nine Eastern African nations have pledged to urge their governments to intensify their battle against food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger by enacting sound legislation and allocating adequate resources. During their First Annual Meeting, held from 15 to 17 April 2019 in Arusha, Tanzania, members of the newly-formed “Eastern African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (EAPA FSN)” committed to leveraging their critical role as legislators to promote the Right to Food. This right is realized when every man, woman and child has physical and economic access, at all times, to adequate amounts of nutritious food.
Officially opening the Annual Meeting and the launch of EAPA FSN, the Right Hon. Job Yustino Ndugai, Speaker of the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, expressed his concern over the severity of food insecurity and malnutrition in the Eastern Africa subregion, despite the area having vast natural resources.
“A significant number of people in our subregion are experiencing food shortage, malnutrition and hunger on a daily basis. Access to adequate food is a human right of every person that is to be fulfilled through appropriate and coordinated actions by governments and non-state actors. Members of parliaments through this Alliance must play an important role by creating a conducive legislative environment and accountability for ending hunger and malnutrition in the region,” Hon. Ndugai said.
David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the Africa Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), lamented the fact that undernourishment in Africa affects more than 257 million people, over 132 million of whom are living in the Eastern Africa subregion. Similarly, despite efforts, the prevalence of severe food insecurity is on the rise in the subregion, with over 31 percent of the total population affected. “Countries that are committed to the values and principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and that effectively implemented their National Agriculture Investment Plans, performed better in successfully reducing food insecurity and malnutrition. Members of the EAPA-FSN have therefore the responsibility to strengthen commitments to the CAADP goals and to accelerate efforts toward formulating and implementing National and Regional Agricultural Investment Plans and other policies and legislative frameworks,” Phiri remarked.
Hon. Mathias Kasamba, Chair of the Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resource Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) said that FAO has taken a commendable initiative in galvanizing the formation of the EAPA-FSN, recognizing the fact that appropriate policies, laws and sound investments spur sustainable food and nutrition security in Africa. “The newly-formed EAPA FSN should ensure governments are on the right path to transform the agricultural sector from its existing rudimentary stage to a modern system, where the youth can benefit in terms of employment and investment,” he noted.
The Head of Division, Health, Population and Nutrition at the African Union Commission, Margaret Agama-Anyetei also stressed that policies, legislations and adequate budgets that promote rural development and sustainable food security are urgent and critical to realise the objectives of AU Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
“The role of this Alliance will be paramount in support of national efforts in averting conflicts, controlling cross border diseases, as well as investing in nutrition-sensitive agriculture and natural resource management towards ending hunger and malnutrition,” she added.
Members of parliaments from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as well as from the East African Legislative Assembly and the Inter-parliamentary Union of IGAD have formed their Alliance in the pursuit of driving the food security and nutrition agenda forward at national and regional levels. After intensive discussions, participating MPs endorsed the EAPA FSN founding document. An Executive Committee of five members was elected to coordinate the activities of the alliance for the next 2 years. Hon. Abdi Hassen Ali, Chair of the Somalia Parliamentary Alliance against hunger and malnutrition, was elected as Chairperson of the Executive Committee and the Alliance.
Representatives from IGAD, the Tanzanian Scaling Up Nutrition Movement and UNICEF-Tanzania and the Government of Tanzania pledged their continuous support to the Alliance. Experts from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) facilitated a knowledge sharing and capacity building event on regional and global commitments for achieving food security and nutrition as well as the linkages of governance of tenure with food security in Eastern Africa. The meeting convened about 40 participants from 11 countries.