C4C-Event: Addressing food and nutrition security in the Africa-EU partnership

Food and nutrition security issues are of high importance in the Africa-EU partnership. With this event, GIZ Representation in Brussels together with faith-based organisations aimed to create a space for a participatory exchange between different religious and faith-based actors, implementing agencies, and policy makers across Europe and Africa on the important role of local actors in addressing food and nutrition security in the context of the Africa-EU partnership. Andrea von Rauch (Director, GIZ Representation in Brussels) opened the event by highlighting that the AU-EU Summit scheduled for February 2022 represents a good opportunity to take stock of ongoing work and policy initiatives in the field of food security that place local actors at the centre of their work.

Turning to the experiences from grassroots and faith-based actors working on ground, Hamed Constantin Tchibozo (Regreening Africa Niger Director, World Vision Niger) gave an overview about the project Regreening Africa which is implemented in eight African countries including Niger and seeks to strengthen food security and the nutrition status of local communities. This is done by working closely with farmers to manage regeneration activities and especially by improving women’s access to reclaimed land. The implementation of the project has resulted in an increased number of women receiving specific training, a significant rise of improved stoves being built and a more sustainable use of natural resources. In the following, Victoria Madedor (Co-Founder, Agroverified/AEFJN Nigeria) introduced the innovative financing project Agroverified which aims to increase transparency in the agriculture sector and trust in funding and trade among communities in Nigeria. Having pointed to the fact that many trade-related interventions that address poverty spend a lot of money on bureaucratic procedures, she illustrated how Agroverified improves integrity, trust and transparency of the system by providing a repository of verified data on crop and animal farmers and giving credible digital identity. Finally, she stressed that the tracing of funds coming to Africa is especially important to ensure local smallholder farmers become the real beneficiaries and that they are able to access those funds.

Temnet Amanuel (Team Leader, Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Project, GIZ) gave an overview about the Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Project implemented by GIZ in Ethiopia which seeks to improve nutrition of local communities by promoting nutrition sensitive farming and income diversification, supporting behavioural change through social change communication and by fostering multi-sector coordination. Referring to the example of the predominant Orthodox Tewahedo church in Ethiopia which practices a large number of fasting days per year, she pointed out certain nutrition-related challenges which the programme aims to tackle. Among those: lack of knowledge and awareness of nutrition among local people, religious and cultural misconceptions, and the low consumption of animal food sources during fasting season. Key factors identified by the programme are the presence of an enabling environment, like fasting exemptions and a sermon guide, committed community members at various levels and an enabling policy environment at country level. Further solutions to the mentioned challenges include capacity building, such as sensitization workshops with religious leaders, strong advocacy work and cross-sectoral coordination.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion including representatives from the European Commission, the African Union, GIZ and local and faith-based organisations.

Dr. Leonard Mizzi (Head of Unit, Sustainable Agri-Food systems and Fisheries, DG INTPA, European Commission) underlined the critical role of local and faith-based actors in addressing food security and the importance of including their experiences and a human-centred approach in the future AU-EU activities. He further encouraged GIZ and faith-based organisations to get engaged with EU delegations, to compile impactful projects so that this kind of evidence can better inform processes of policy formulation. Turning to related EU activities, he pointed out that the EU takes a human rights-based approach and that the EU especially would like to tackle the problem of deforestation and child labour in the context of nutrition as well as climate-change related aspects. He finally pointed out that the EU seeks to further coordinate actions with several actors, such as FAO, UNICEF, WFP and operators on ground to prevent future food crises.

Via a written message, Dr. Simplice Nouala (Head of Agriculture and Food Security Division, African Union Commission) stressed that agriculture is a very broad sector that goes to embrace many non-state actors such as farmers, agribusiness, producer organisations, and civil society. The effective inclusion of non-state actors in the Common African Agriculture Development Policy (CAADP) creates, among others, the following challenges: availability of resources for non-state actor participation, ensuring a balance of interests, limited awareness by non-state actors of the CAADP process, access to platforms. According to Dr. Nouala, it is therefore crucial that the AU-EU partnership in agriculture includes the strengthening of the capacity of non-state actors for facilitating more inclusive design and implementation of agriculture transformation policies and programs.

Imam Moussa Ibrahim (General Secretary, Islamic Association of Niger) underlined that faith leaders can play a major role to support people in Africa in improving food and nutrition security, and to sensitize and raise awareness in local communities for behavioural change and adaption of agricultural practices. He added that people often misinterpret religious scriptures and that sociocultural norms, such as food taboos often inhibit sufficient food security of children and mothers. Religious leaders are needed to appropriately address those misconceptions. He finally stressed that consultation with religious leaders can be useful when implementing projects in order to take the reality on ground into consideration. Temnet Amanuel (Team Leader, Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Project, GIZ) underlined that a great advantage of engaging with local faith-based actors is their ability to reach a wide range of people, especially (pregnant) women and children in fasting times. During pregnancy and labour they mostly go to church and follow leaders' guidance during this time. Religious leaders are highly respected and taken as role models for their leadership so it will give us a good opportunity to transfer messages. Victoria Madedor (Co-Founder, Agroverified/AEFJN Nigeria) added that if local farmers become more visible, their ecological footprint can also be better understood and be better included in climate-sensitive agricultural interventions.

Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka (Vice President, SECAM) provided the closing remarks and underlined the role of EU and AU policies in the area of food security which – according to him – sometimes fail to address the needs of local communities. He welcomed the participation of both organisations in this event and called for joint efforts to eliminate the causes of food insecurity in Africa.

Many thanks to all participants and especially to our speakers. Please do not hesitate to contact giz-brussels@giz.de with questions or feedback.

Capacity4Change (C4C) is an event series in Brussels organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with selected partner institutions and organisations. C4C aims to enrich the Brussels policy debate with practical know-how and implementation experiences. It features innovative approaches, challenging analyses, interesting publications and thought-provoking ideas.

This Capacity4Change event was co-organised with: Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Bahá'í International Community (BIC) Brussels Office, Caritas Europa, Conference of European Churches (CEC), The Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE), Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), World Vision.