Africa: Food Security Tops Kigali Talks As Groups Rally On Ogoni Clean-up

1335 views | Akpan Akata | August 7, 2019

At a high-level Africa Food Security Leadership Dialogue hosted by the Government of Rwanda in Kigali, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank, participants said resilience must be boosted in Africa in response to climate change. .

FAO’s Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, said ‘’farmers have always been innovators. What they need are policies that protect them and increase their resilience to climate change. They need access to information, technology, and investment, and they should be brought to the conversation on innovation.’’

Africa’s food and agriculture sectors are among the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Small-holder farmers, small entrepreneurs, and their families, whose livelihoods depend on rain-fed agriculture, are most threatened by climate change.

This was coming as the Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action) and her partners were commended by participants at a town-hall event for creating inclusive opportunities for broad contributions to be made as inputs for getting a right path that look to result into successful process of clean-up in Ogoni.

Public agencies, including the Hydro Carbon Pollution and Remediation Programme (HYPREP), together with Niger Delta traditional/community leaders, representatives of civil society organisations were brought together to make needed contributions to improve result of the Ogoni clean-up exercise.

The meeting focused on ensuring that the clean-up represents a test case for the clean-up of the Niger Delta and the entire Nigerian environment.

During the meeting, some observations were made: Collaboration of stakeholders is important for HYPREP to succeed in the Ogoni clean-up. This is based on the role of communities/CSOs’ pressure of demands that keep the momentum of search for beneficial effort in addressing clean-up of the polluted Ogoniland (specifically), and the Niger Delta region and even beyond.

*The current slow ‘snail’ speed process of the intervention by HYPREP is still worrisome, especially, as against the fact that emergency issues must be quickly attended to as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

*Women inclusion remains a critical issue of consideration for attaining positive results of lasting impact, looking at the fact that Ogoni women depend much on the environment (especially land and water) for sustaining livelihoods (and right to life imperatives) across grassroots experiences.

*Periodic review of the clean-up process among stakeholders should form part of supporting transparency and accountability strengthening towards building public confidence over the HYPREP course of action.

*Communities waiting to be reached with the clean-up effort so far are not happy and are yet to trust what HYPREP is doing across the different localities of Ogoni. This is critically based on the fact that their land, water and livelihoods have been destroyed and no hope is in sight as to provision of any solution (alternatives); and secondly, emergency needs must not be treated as ordinary matters –going by the recommendations of the UNEP report.

*Objections and suggestions to achieve high impact process form important part of needed input into making the clean-up process a success.

*The issues on ground under the clean-up exercise border on livelihoods, lives of people, and preservation of environment which therefore necessitates that due diligence need be brought to bear in the processes and further that pointing to the fact that if the pilot Ogoni Clean-up succeeds, then the effort to rehabilitate the Niger delta environmentally, can hopefully succeed.

*HYPREP is a government agency under oversight of a Governing Council that is in turn under the oversight of Board of Trustees –and is therefore subjected to constraints of budget planning/approval; it is, as well, bogged down by constraints of institutional procedures/structural set-up.

*The absence of implementing plan on the UNEP report has precipitated much of the delay that generated confusion about communities’ expectations and what HYPREP has been doing all along.

Consequently, they resolved that oversight function of monitoring and reporting of the process should be encouraged from communities and CSOs to ensure all effort being made is directly leading to expected success levels, as HYPREP pledged, ‘’we are not going to keep anything in the bucket [secret]’’. The process of the clean-up implementation should be made actionable.

The meeting also resolved that monitoring and evaluation processes of the clean-up must be made inclusive for communities and CSOs inputs for attaining expected process of success, centre of excellence/soil remediation facilities (as recommended by UNEP report), offer manpower development (training) for the clean-up, and must be established to address livelihood needs, building them locally to create empowerment for the impacted communities. While insisting that this area of intervention must be addressed concurrently with other aspects of the overall clean-up process as it was critical to engender the needed local cooperation, on the issue of addressing continuous artisanal refining and contamination of the Ogoniland during the clean-up process, ‘’is highly inimical to desired objectives and thus must be given speedy and needed attention’’.

According to them, ‘’there is every need to remove some cumbersome processes around budgetary approvals in order for key and emergency issues as around provision of potable water, healthcare, livelihoods provisions, amongst others, as provided for by the UNEP report to be efficiently addressed.

‘’Air-quality monitoring around communities of impact must be taken into consideration under the effort to address the general clean-up process around the Ogoni area. CSOs/communities to synergise with HYPREP to demand (or work around) the following: Health registry for impacted communities, KPI follow-up, work plan issues, livelihoods issues, disclosure, accountability/transparency and communication linkages, Strengthen partnership with UNEP/HYPREP, and key processes for addressing the UNEP report recommended emergency issues (particularly health).

The resolution was jointly endorsed by Patrick Chiekwe, of Publish What You Pay, Emmanuel Robinson of FOCONE, K. Pata, President of Bodo Youth Community, Friday Kpelop of Ogoni Community, Arochuwkwu Paul Ogbonna of Social Action, Irikefe Dafe  of Foundation of the Conservation of Nigeria Rivers, Kentebe Ebiaridor of Environmental Right s Action, Chief Agbe Lucky of Ueken Tai, Celestine Akpobari of Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Sebastine Kpalap  of Citizens Voice Initiative, Egbulefu Justice of Community Conciliation and Development Initiative, and Yamagbara Legborsi of Ogoni Youth Federation.

In the mean time, Building resilience is among FAO’s key development priorities in Africa. Resilience against multiple threats, including climate change, is a key prerequisite for sustainable development, in particular when it comes to the challenge of feeding over two billion Africans by 2050. 

Semedo was speaking at a panel discussion on scaling up investments and policies for food security in response to climate change, alongside African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Sacko, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert Houngbo, the World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region Hafez Ghanem, and the Director for Agriculture and Agro-Industry at the African Development Bank (AfDB) Martin Fregene.

 

According to the latest FAO data, hunger is on the rise in almost all African sub-regions making Africa the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, at almost 20 percent. The situation is mostly driven by conflict and climate change and is especially critical in Eastern Africa, where 30.8 percent (133 million people) are struggling to have enough to eat.  

Conference participants heard that it is possible to adapt to these risks with immediate and bold action focused on resilience.

 

On Monday, participants endorsed a commitment to better support African countries to accelerate progress towards improved food security.

The aim of the AFSLD is to facilitate engagement between governments and key development partners to galvanise unified action for Africa’s agriculture and food systems in response to climate change. Around 250 people are attending the two-day event, including the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica.    

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