39th Annual Meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA)
Remarks by John “Jeff” Daigle, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Cabo Verde
Representative of Technical and Financial Partners of the Comité Inter-États de Lutte contre la Sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS)
Praia, Cape Verde, December 5, 2023
● Your Excellency the Prime Minister of the Republic of Cabo Verde,
● Commissioner of the West African Economic and Monetary Union,
● The Executive Secretary of Comité Inter-États de Lutte contre la Sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS),
● The Honorary President of the Sahel and West Africa Club,
● Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of Regional and International Organizations,
● Members of the Food Crisis Prevention Network,
● Distinguished guests, partners, all protocols observed
In the name of the Group of Technical and Financial Partners of the CILSS, and on behalf of the US Government, I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretariat of the Food Crisis Prevention Network for inviting us to the opening ceremony of the thirty-ninth session of this network. Despite the climatic, security, food, health, and economic crises facing the region, our commitment to the Sahel and West Africa remains strong.
World hunger, as measured by the prevalence of undernourishment, remained relatively stable in 2021 and 2022, with between 600 to 800 million people suffering from hunger. However, despite encouraging results in the 2022-2023 harvest season globally, there was an unfortunate decrease in cereal production per capita in Africa. The result is that hunger actually increased in the Sahel and West Africa, from approximately 10 million in 2019 to a record 43 million people in 2023. Additionally, nearly 17 million children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition in countries including Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad.
One underlying cause is the growing urbanization of the population. By 2050, it is predicted that about seven out of ten people will reside in cities, up from approximately 40 percent today, necessitating systemic changes to agro-food systems. While there are obstacles to overcome, there are also chances to ensure that everyone has access to reasonably priced and healthful food.
Current challenges include the increasing availability of cheap, ready-to-consume, pre-cooked, or fast-food items. These foods are rich in fats, sugars, and salt which is both unhealthy and contributes to malnutrition. Furthermore, the exclusion of small farmers from structured value chains, the loss of land and natural capital due to urban expansion represent additional challenges. Urbanization also leads to the emergence of longer, and more complex food value chains, further complicating the picture.
The evolution of the food and nutritional situation in the Sahel and West Africa calls for a strategic change in response to the multiple problems and challenges in the region. In addition to negative health effects, food insecurity can be a catalyst for conflict and serve as a vector for the expression of broader socio-economic and political grievances.
Addressing food insecurity is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. In order to combat its negative economic and social effects, we must pay financial and operational attention to the drastic increase in people facing food crises in the region, as well as the evolving dynamics and causes of the problem. That is why the work of the Food Crisis Prevention Network is so important. With your help, the international community can work to ensure we meet not only people’s immediate humanitarian needs but also work to build resilience and reduce the underlying causes of food insecurity from conflict, climate variability and lack of economic opportunity.
There is a growing consensus that transforming agro-food systems to increase their efficiency, inclusivity, resilience, and sustainability is a crucial step in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The first United Nations Food Systems Summit, held in September 2021, and the Food Systems Summit Review held at the end of July 2023 highlighted both strong political will and support for innovative solutions and strategies to transform agro-food systems. These include everything from combating food waste, to fostering climate-smart agriculture, and promoting low-cost, high impact interventions such as school meals programs.
From our perspective, part of the solution involved recognizing the rapid growth and role of small and medium-sized enterprises in national value chains in the Sahel and West Africa. Governments should invest in the growth and expansion of SMEs, and invest at the district and municipal levels to expand the presence of wholesale markets. At the national level, such investment will develop road infrastructure, information communication technology, and electrification. All of this will help ease market conditions and result in more supply at better prices for consumers.
Let’s also keep in mind that the region’s demographics also contribute to the current crisis. With over 60 percent of the region’s population under 25 years of age, it is essential to find suitable solutions to meet the particular needs of youth and women, including support for job creation. The RPCA network can play a key role in this by influencing national governments to adopt policies to ensure national value chains are inclusive and efficient and that programs focus on improving the livelihoods of women and youth.
The Food Crisis Prevention Network is playing a key role in this complex, current context and can do even more to address these challenges. We need to be bold. We need to be innovative. And we need to be creative if we want to inspire the changes we want to see.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate and thank, on behalf of all technical and financial partners, the authorities of Cabo Verde for their constant commitment and investment in favor of food security.
Thank you for your kind attention