Members of the Task Force Rural Africa discussing at the event. From left to right: Kees Blokland, Baudouin Michel, Bruno Losch, Albert Engel, Tom Arnold (Chairman), Christine Wieck and Mashiri Zvarimwa.
Photo: © BMEL/photothek.net

A closer look at the Task Force Rural Africa

Founded in 2018 by the European Union (EU), the Task Force Rural Africa held a workshop at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture in Berlin, Germany, to present their work and focus themes to examine and provide advice on how to strengthen the EU partnership with Africa in food and farming.

In the framework of the 11th Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), which is linked to the International Green Week in Berlin, Germany, both organised by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the European Union hosted a panel to discuss the results of the Task Force Rural Africa. The event took place in late January 2019.

In May 2018, the EU, in co-operation with the African Union, constituted the Task Force Rural Africa, which operates until April 2019. The group, consisting of eleven European and African experts, has been set up to build a strong partnership between Africa and the EU for the inclusive and sustainable development of agriculture, food sectors and rural economy. It operates at three levels: people to people, business to business and government to government. Across these actions, the group facilitates a multi-stakeholder dialogue between African and European societies, business communities and governments.

The four strategic areas of action comprise elaborating a territorial development strategy for income and job creation, identifying measures to sustainably manage land, natural resources and climate action, as well as to sustainably transform African agriculture and develop African food industry and food markets. The group is guided by a European Commission inter-service steering group and co-chaired by the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO).

Presenting the Task Force’s outcome

“We are not proposing a comprehensive plan for Africa. Our recommendations need to be integrated in all strategies in the countries,” Tom Arnold, Chairman of the Task Force Rural Africa (Ireland), said.

Albert Engel, the German member of the Task Force, added that no sector-specific silver bullets existed. Solutions had to be adapted to specific local conditions and oriented on areas such as those addressed in socio-economic approaches, need not necessarily be linked to a territorial area, Engel said. He furthered a shift was required from sectoral top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches to multisectoral, bottom-up, locally specific approaches, with local actors in lead and a special emphasises on public-private partnerships. “We are already working with 2,600 local action groups for which we offer finance and experience through the initiative of the Task Force,” Engel explained.

Another field of action addresses a transformational agriculture towards a sustainable use of natural resources and climate action. Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, the Nigerian member of the Task Force, noted that it focused on capacity building in the countries to better access financing for climate action, especially climate change adaptation in agriculture. Funding through the Green Climate Fund was not easy to obtain, and a lot of administrative structures as well as knowledge were needed, she said.

Bruno Losch, the French member of the Task Force, recommended a triangle of education, research and innovation, maintaining that knowledge was key to development. Therefore, a research and knowledge platform and support should be set up, Losch said.

The Task Force presented their six key recommendations on how to strengthen the African agriculture. The recommendations state that first, rural governance should be supported and an innovative local action programme needs to be formulated based on a territorial approach. Second, mainstreaming environmental sustainability and promoting climate action is essential. Third, for transforming agriculture and rural areas, a knowledge, innovation and networking initiative should be put in place. Fourth, access to private finance and to EU cooperation instruments for small and medium-size agriculture and food businesses needs to be improved. Fifth, sustainable value chain development, regional integration and intra-regional trade should be scaled up. Sixth, European and African expertise for agriculture and rural development should be brought together. Across these findings, job creation for rural youth and respecting gender aspects are central.

The final report of the Task Force Rural Africa will be published in March 2019.

Comments from the sector

José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), welcomed the setting up of the Task Force as an important step. The Sahel region would remain with conflicts, especially between pastoralists and farmers, Graziano da Silva added. “In Africa, we have climate migrants for the first time. This is why the Sahel reserves a specific approach. The conflict is growing. If we cannot stop the conflict, we are losing the game,” Graziano da Silva said. He furthered that special emphasises had to be put on this region.

Phil Hogan, Director-General of DG AGRI of the European Commission, announced that the EU would set up a unit to implement the findings and recommendations of the Task Force in the near future.

Daniela Böhm, editor, Rural 21

 

More information:
Concept paper Towards an Africa Europe partnership for sustainable development and jobs in rural Africa - Priority Areas for Action and Key Recommendations of the Task Force Rural Africa