Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has warned BRICS Agriculture Ministers that they are racing against time to make a meaningful impact against hunger, food security and climate change.
“Whilst our pace is commendable in this regard, but we must not rest on our laurels and be complacent about the mammoth tasks lying ahead,” Zokwana said.
The Minister was speaking at the 8th Meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development held in Skukuza, Mpumalanga, on Friday.
Held under the theme “Reducing the negative impact of climate change on food security and adaptation of agriculture to climate change”, the four-day meeting, which started from 19 – 22 June 2018 was a precursor to the BRICS Summit to be hosted by the country in July 2018.
It aimed at promoting cooperation among BRICS countries in addressing climate change, focusing on climate smart actions and approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), improving efficiencies, enhancing resilience of agricultural and food production systems (adaptation), and ensuring food security.
Zokwana reminded the ministers that as BRICS, they are an emerging bloc that carries with it the aspirations of more than 40% of the world population, within which lies challenges of poverty, food insecurity and the effects brought about by climate change, as it affects production levels.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has stated that “with the clock ticking toward the 2030 deadline for meeting the international goals to eradicate hunger and poverty, Ministries of Agriculture in five of the world’s most important emerging economies are well positioned to take a leading role in helping to achieve these objectives”.
Zokwana said economic indicators show that agriculture in many parts of the world has the potential of being a larger contributor than it is to national Gross domestic product (GDP), thereby representing a “sunshine economic sector that we must nurture for prosperity of our nations”.
In South Africa, despite the effects of drought on the sector, agricultural sector displayed resilience and extricated the country from technical recession in the third quarter of 2017, when other sectors faced sluggish growth.
Embrace technological take over
Zokwana also challenged the Ministers to embrace the technological take over that is replacing old agricultural methods of doing agricultural business.
“These are necessary disruptions that puts us on a hi-tech competitive edge, with younger generations becoming the masters of the new technological revolution in the sector.
“Through our collegiality as BRICS countries, I plead that let’s hand-hold each other; let’s share information and experiences in our scientific and technological advances that each one of us has. As the BRICS bloc, we must be driven by the great sense of solidarity than competition, brotherhood than enmity and increased intra-trade,” Zokwana said.
The Minister said climate change threats call for all BRICS countries to become climate change patrons by playing a more meaningful role in the fight against global warming.
Progress made to implement BRICS Action Plan
Meanwhile, significant progress has been made to implement the BRICS Action Plan: 2017 – 2020 for Agricultural Cooperation of BRICS countries.
This includes the achievement of broader aims such as:
Supporting the United Nations (UN) efforts in fighting poverty and eradicating hunger at the global level, exchange information and experiences, policies, ensuring food security, enhance food supply capacities of BRICS, and reduce food crises.
Implementing national programmes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, exchange and share basic agricultural information and technologies adaptive to climate change, strengthen resilience of agricultural productive systems and their adaptability to natural and climate disasters, and deepen cooperative research.
Improving the livelihoods of farmers especially through capacity building and participation of smallholder farmers in the global agricultural value chains and help smallholders of BRICS to increase food productivity and improve food security through meetings, technical cooperation, technology demonstration and training as well as holding BRICS seminars to share experiences of agricultural resilience and adaptation to climate change.