Regional dialogue on agricultural development trends and the outlook for Southern Africa

The Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System for Southern Africa (ReSAKSS-SA), facilitated by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Southern Africa Office (IWMI-SA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), convened a high-level regional policy dialogue in Johannesburg, Birchwood hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre, South Africa, on August 13-14, 2015. The multi-stakeholder consultative dialogue discussed the trends in, and outlook for, agricultural development in Southern Africa, focusing on agricultural trade and investments in agricultural water management.

The event, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided stakeholders with the opportunity to engage in a guided policy debate to create a comprehensive message to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the future of agriculture. Participants in the dialogue included key policymakers from SADC, SADC member states, development partners, research institutions, representatives from farmer-based organizations, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Focal Points, as well as key stakeholders from agribusinesses and civil society organizations. Hon. Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Government of Malawi, who was the guest of honour, officially opened the dialogue.

Through structured presentations and facilitated discussions, the participants discussed multiple perspectives of the emerging issues and recommendations for the way forward, with particular reference to agricultural investment plans. Discussions were informed by trends observed in the Annual Trends and Outlook reports, which focussed on: Promoting agricultural trade to enhance resilience in Southern Africa, agricultural water investment studies on groundwater and surface water availability for agriculture under climate change, untapped potential of informal gendered smallholder irrigation and revitalization of public irrigation schemes.

The outputs of the dialogue included: shared appreciation by the SADC member states and various regional stakeholders of the current level of performance of the agriculture sector, with reference to agricultural trade and water resources, and key challenges and opportunities for accelerating growth in the sector to ensure food security and reduce poverty. Stakeholders, including key policymakers at various levels, exchanged knowledge and experiences on evidence-based recommendations and strategic options for increasing investment in the agriculture sector which can be considered by SADC and other actors for inclusion in their investment plans.

The following key messages were highlighted during the discussions:

  • ReSAKSS-SA and partners should help SADC member countries to form their own knowledge support systems to overcome the problem of unreliable data.
  • Establishing knowledge centers in the ministries of agriculture across the SADC region can help improve data and information flows in the sector.
  • SADC needs to improve its data systems.
  • Robust consultative dialogues are critical to support public and private investments in agriculture.
  • Private sector participation in agriculture is critical. However, it must be coupled with efforts to ensure that farmers are protected from unscrupulous business models.
  • There is an urgent need to incorporate farmers’ innovations into research, and understand how they adopt different agricultural and water management technologies.
  • Water and climate change issues need to be addressed in determining agricultural performance in the region.
  • More efforts are required to improve efficient use and management of water resources.

 

From Left: Godfrey Bahiigwa-ReSAKSS-Coordinator- Africa wide, William Benjamin, Agriculture Team Leader-USAID-SA and Mr. Littleton Tazewell- Deputy Mission Director - USAID Southern Africa 

Regional dialogue group work feedback session

For more information and pictures of the two day event please visit the blog: 2015 Southern Africa Regional Dialogue Blog.

This article is written by Thokozani Dlamini, communications officer at IWMI/ReSAKSS-SA.