The Role of South-South Cooperation in Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural Development: Focus on Africa

Focus on Africa: Making South-South Cooperation on Agricultural development more inclusive and sustainable With Rio+20 only a week away, the theme of this Poverty in Focus resonates clearly with the broader discourse on sustainable development, in particular the expanded efforts to mainstream inclusion and equity and to improve institutional frameworks for sustainable development. The United Nations Development Programme’s first Africa Human Development Report, launched on 15 May 2012, highlights the extent to which recent growth in Africa has neither sufficiently reduced extreme poverty and hunger nor provided the number and scope of opportunities envisioned. One of its key messages is a call for more investment in agriculture to ensure both sustained growth and poverty reduction. The evidence is clear. We need new mechanisms, approaches and tools to address an ever-increasing combination of deeply embedded inequalities and new variations of instability and unsustainability. The international seminar on the Role of South-South Cooperation in Agricultural Development in Africa held on 17 May in Brasília served as an important space for dialogue to explore some of these issues, specifically in the context of agricultural futures and in the broader context of development. Emerging clearly was the conviction that South-South cooperation, as a mechanism, could be catalytic, if well designed and harnessed, effectively shaped and defined within a context of exchange, mutual benefits and learning. With the increasing attention on both the inclusivity of growth and its environmental sustainability, now being framed in the context of inclusive green growth, more reliance is also likely to be placed on South-South cooperation in defining a number of answers to the ‘how’. As the Government of Brazil hosts Rio+20, attention also falls on the country’s role as a broker for such forms of South-South exchange, particularly on models which can deliver triple wins for the economy, society and the environment. A number of successes in reducing inequality, enhancing both social and productive inclusion and, in particular, engaging smallholder farmers in the growth process while also maintaining a successful commercial agriculture sector are among the important lessons/entry points for Brazil-Africa exchange in this context. At the same time, successes and innovations are also emerging from sub-Saharan Africa, in discrete flagship programmes, policies and in sectors. Thus far, there has been less discussion about bi-directional flows of good practice, lessons learned and technology transfers than the current reality merits. This Poverty in Focus, designed as a value-added output of the May 17 seminar, gives specific voice to the above, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities facing South-South cooperation as a tool for ‘development’ and not just development cooperation. This opportunity to discuss agriculture not just as a sector but as a force for development, for poverty reduction, food security, for greater cooperation within the South, and for greater lessons from the South to emerge on the international landscape builds on other similar efforts and discussions in 2012. It resonates with a key motto of one of our coordinating partners—agriculture is a key pathway out of poverty. Looking forward, the nexus between agriculture and development highlights two key issues: eliminating hunger and rethinking agriculture, in light of sustainability and equity. Climate change, livelihoods and food security, in particular, represent both challenges and opportunities for achieving these two objectives, and many questions do remain. It is the role of knowledge-based institutions, such as IPC-IG, the Futures Agricultural Consortium, CIRAD, Articulação Sul, with the support of DFID and UN Women, and in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), to probe and critically assess towards a greater understanding of both the potential and limits of South-South cooperation and to identify potential answers to urgent policy questions. It is our hope that the approach taken in the seminar and this Poverty in Focus defines a new scope for critical and inclusive policy dialogue, while shining a brighter light on some of the underlying development questions of our time, including how to maximise Africa’s incredible natural, social and cultural wealth into a source of sustainable growth for all its citizens. by Jorge Chediek, Interim Director, IPC-IG