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Food security, gender equality key to Sustainable Development Goals


The Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the acute food shortage in Africa are among the factors delaying the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, according to the Goalkeepers Report 2022 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The report lists global food systems and gender equality as some of the achievable areas if prioritised.

Samburu Wa-Shiko, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation East Africa Regional Representative, also includes the security crisis, climate change and "closer home (Kenya), the conflict in Ethiopia", as factors that complicate the journey to attaining SDGs.

But there are inspirations to be drawn from the way the global community battled challenges like HIV, malaria and TB and which can be used in attaining all the 17 SDGs.

The global community, for instance, joined forces and set up The Global Fund, a global health architecture at the heart of the HIV response, which included raising $14.25 billion (Sh1.7 trillion), from the $18 billion (Sh2.2 trillion) target during the Seventh Replenishment Conference of the Global Fund.

The largest donors were the US, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany and Japan who increased pledges while private sector partners led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.23 billion (Sh148 billion).

The Global Fund has been instrumental in concentrating resources, research and innovation required to fight malaria, HIV and TB and "no wonder SDG 1 points to the importance of global partnership as an important bedrock to the attainment of the SDGs," says Samburu.

At a time when millions of people are grappling with drought and famine, agribusiness is a potential solution to the food crisis facing 345 million people globally, an increase from 135 million in 2019, according to World Food Programme (WFP).

Samburu says the twin challenge of the rising cost of food and climate change is worsening the situation and thus "a need for innovations to revolutionise the food system in the continent" as a long-term solution.

In an essay in the Goalkeepers 2022 report, Bill Gates notes that "the war in Ukraine shows that hunger can't be solved just with humanitarian assistance alone, investments in agriculture R&D are required"

Agricultural research has been neglected for years yet the next generation of climate-smart seeds that are drought and disease resistant is needed.

Samburu is worried that "it is going to be difficult for small-holder farmers to increase productivity which equals increased income and lifting communities out of poverty".

Bill Gates, in his essay, points out that importing food follows the inability to grow enough food "which Africa does on the order of $23 billion (Sh2.3 trillion) a year".

The Foundation has committed $100 million (Sh12 billion) to alleviate the food crisis as more than 70 per cent of Africa relies on agriculture either directly and indirectly, for subsistence and income generation.

Half of the labour force is women meaning "half of them, therefore, rely on agriculture directly or indirectly for development," says Samburu adding that women have to be at the centre of the development approach as without them it would be akin to "going to a football match with half of the players".

But several barriers prevent women from playing active roles in agriculture: lack of opportunities in education, workplace politics, access to credit, entrepreneurship and quality, affordable childcare and French Gates warns "we can't talk about empowering women without making sure they are actually gaining power in their families and communities."

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