The FoodAfrica midterm seminar on food and nutrition security brought together over a hundred people from many different countries in Helsinki in June. In addition to the researchers involved in the FoodAfrica programme representatives from the University of Helsinki, Finnish authorities and non-governmental organisations were present in the interactive event.

The seminar gave a broad look at research on food and nutrition security in Africa and raised questions and discussions based on the presentations. Dr. Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry opened the seminar by highlighting the importance of food security and the challenges that agriculture faces in developing countries.

Dr. Aissétou Dramé Yayé from the African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE), Kenya, brought up the importance of training and research in African agribusiness. Agriculture is the most important and dominant economic activity accounting for 40 percent of GDP and 60–80 percent of employment. Training is highly important, because the African countries import a quarter of its foods despite of the fact that half of the worlds’ arable land area is in Africa. At the same time the African population is growing. To get ahead of the demographic curve agricultural production must rise by 6 percent per annum.

Accoding to Dr. Yayé the majority of the African farmers are resource poor smallholders, who do not currently produce enough food for 0,8 billion people, but are expected to produce enough for about 2 billion people by 2050. Increased population increases pressures on the land and its recourses.

Dr. Sirkka Immonen from CGIAR Independent Evaluation Arrangement talked about agricultural research for food and nutrition security. As there is need for increased food production, availability of natural resources is diminishing and competition for them is increasing. Impacts require involvement of multiple actors and institutions of which research is only a small part. Complementary investments and coordinated action are also required.

Dr. Maximo Torero from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) focused on excessive volatility and its effects. Since 2007 food prices in international markets have experienced three spikes. High and volatile global food prices have caused raising domestic consumer prices, which in turn has reduced food consumption of net buyers in developing countries. Excessive volatility has also affected producers, given the uncertainty regarding the income their planting decisions will earn. The poorest net buyers were the most affected by these shocks as they spend a large share of their income on food.

Professor Hannu J. Korhonen from MTT presented the FoodAfrica programme and the need for similar programmes now and in the future. He highlighted the challenges in African food and nutrition security and presented the ways of improving food and nutrition security through science and education.

The seminar ended in a panel discussion. The panelists were Director Juha Ruippo from MTK, Development Policy Advisor Sanna-Liisa Taivalmaa from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Dr. Amoussa Waliou from FSA Benin, Dr. Maximo Torero from IFPRI and Dr. Aissétou Dramé Yayé from ANAFE. The discussion was led by Mila Sell from MTT.

See all the seminar presentations and videos here.