As the world’s agriculture community continues to find innovative ways to close the nutritional gap, a movement in the heart of Africa is investing in the resilience of rural communities in a number of African countries. These communities are becoming more nutritionally secure, increasing youth employment, and incorporating best practices for more bountiful harvests.
The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund for Food Security (ASTF), a uniquely African-led investment fund, began as a call to action from the Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso. During the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2012 Regional Conference for Africa President Nguesso urged fellow African nations to join together in a collective effort to defeat malnutrition and improve the livelihood of farmers. Avowingto join in the fight many NGOs, United Nations agencies, and intergovernmental organizations agreed to aid the trust fund’s efforts under the policy framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The ASTF officially launched in 2013 and has already invested millions of dollars in nutrition and food security projects across 24 countries.
In late November 2014 the ASTF began a new campaign focused in eastern Africa, which will benefit four countries- Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.
The eastern Africa initiatives include:
US$1 million investment, over three years, in Kenya and Uganda to improve the aquaculture system by enriching access to markets, increase availability of juvenile fish and feeds to promote production and value added capacity of local aquaculture
US$800,000 USD investment with emphasis on poultry and its connection to youth employment, entrepreneurial skills, and food security in Burundi and Rwanda
The FAO aims for these new investments to make a deep impact and improve thousands of lives. Judith Mulinge of FAO in Kenya asserts, “More than 500 youth farmers engaging in aquaculture and poultry farming are transforming lives in rural and peri-urban settings. The project targets to benefit about 5,000 people in each of the four countries (20,000 people in all).” The ASTF’s poverty reduction efforts in eastern Africa will bolster ASTF’s already wide spread commitment to similar efforts across the continent.
The Global Forum on Agriculture Research applauds and endorses ASTF and strongly believes that overall there is great scope for new technologies, new products, new processes to empower farmers to lift themselves out of poverty. The Forum looks forward to linking ASTF with the projected international Investment and Support Facility for Agricultural Innovation it is developing in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The proposed Facility will invest in, and strengthen, national agricultural research and innovation systems, to help lift developing countries out of poverty and set them on the path to growth based on an agenda that is directly demanded and driven by countries and their smallholder farmers with a particular focus on women and youth.
New, young farmers gain employment while working in industries that promote food security, produce nutritional staples for the malnourished, and closing the nutritional gap in their own country. Training entrepreneurial farmers who help to alleviate poverty and hunger- that is a great return on investment.