Strengthening Africa’s Food Systems: A Collaborative Push towards Sustainable Agriculture

Mr. Osamu Kubota, Vice President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), recently paid a visit to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the President of AGRA and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. This meeting underscored a deepening partnership aimed at fostering sustainable agricultural practices across the continent.

AGRA, an African-led institution, has been at the forefront of transforming agriculture in Africa to ensure food security, improve nutrition, and enhance rural livelihoods. The visit by JICA’s high-level delegation, which included Mr. Sato, Director for Agriculture Programs, and Mr. Kenji Hayashi, Senior Resident Representative for the Kenya Office, was not just a courtesy call but a strategic dialogue on how to intensify efforts for agricultural transformation in Africa.

During the discussions, Dr. Kalibata extended an invitation to JICA to participate in the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA) field trip. This initiative aims to showcase AGRA’s impactful interventions in sustainable agriculture across the continent. The PIATA field trip is seen as a vital platform for sharing best practices, learning, and fostering partnerships that can scale up efforts to enhance food security and agricultural productivity in Africa.

One of the focal points of the meeting was the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD), a collaborative initiative between AGRA and JICA aimed at doubling rice production in Africa. Given the increasing demand for rice, spurred by population growth and changing eating habits, this initiative is deemed crucial for the continent’s food security. Dr. Kalibata highlighted the significant investments being made in West Africa to strengthen the ECOWAS Rice Observatory, building on CARD’s foundational work and leveraging data to improve rice production.

Moreover, the discussions touched on the development of Rice Development Flagships, which are built upon the CARD Roadmap. These flagships aim to fast-track progress in rice production through implementable programs, thereby contributing significantly to the continent’s agricultural resilience.

Mr. Osamu Kubota shared insights into the JICA-Africa Food Security Initiative, which rests on three pillars: CARD, the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP), and the Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa (IFNA). These initiatives are designed to enhance food security, empower smallholder farmers, and improve nutrition across Africa. Additionally, JICA’s interest in partnering with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was discussed as a means to further economic integration and agricultural development on the continent.

Dr. Kalibata welcomed JICA’s initiatives and called for greater collaboration with local institutions to optimize local capacity and knowledge. This approach is vital for ensuring that interventions are sustainable and effectively address the unique challenges facing African agriculture.

AGRA and JICA by leveraging partnerships, knowledge sharing, and strategic investments, the two organizations can make significant strides in transforming Africa’s food systems, ensuring food security, and promoting economic growth and sustainability across the continent.