The president of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has urged the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan.
The plan aims to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Adesina, and a panel of witnesses, on Wednesday testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programmes.
At the hearing, Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri), amongst others participated.
Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding.
While expressing support for the establishment of a global fund for food security, Senator Graham, said: “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe.,”
Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.
He maintained that the development finance institution was prepared to food insecurity challenge and others through the US government’s support.
Adesina said the bank would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called on the US to make up the funding balance.
He said: “With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success.”
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan, which is currently before the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors for approval, is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers.
With the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.
Similarly, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, and Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps, Ms. Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, attested to the food insecurity threat globally.
McKenna said: “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.”
She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
This is even as Beasley maintained that food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war, adding that 135 million people are acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic.
He expatiated: “Covid comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
Adesina emphasized that the African Development Bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.
The development finance banker said: “One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important.”
He explained that the bank was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs, noting that “if we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem.
According to him, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan will have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity by driving “the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.”