Progress or Stagnation? CARE's Take on the African Union's Investment in Agriculture, Nutrition

Progress or Stagnation? CARE's Take on the African Union's Investment in Agriculture, Nutrition


Four years ago, The African Union (AU) and its 55 member states signed the Malabo Declaration reconfirming that if African countries intend to end hunger and cut poverty in half by 2025, then agriculture must remain a top development priority. To re-affirm this commitment, AU members pledged to devote 10 percent of their national budgets on the issue of agriculture. This commitment signified a crucial shift in how countries addressed agriculture and nutrition across the continent, and highlighted the importance of key development factors including: adapting to the impact of a changing climate, investing in small-scale farmers and focusing efforts on women.

A Malabo Biennial Report released last month reveals significant progress already made toward achieving that commitment. Twenty countries are on-track for achieving their 2025 goals, but many countries still have a long way to go. In response to the report, CARE International, the Graca Machel Trust (GMT), and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), developed key recommendations to guide and inform governments, the private sector and other actors on how to enhance climate-smart agriculture, nutrition and agriculture investment interventions.

Climate-Smart Agriculture

Why It’s Important: Both long term drought and rapid onset disasters like cyclones and floods have changed the lives of millions across the continent. In places like Southern Africa, one of the regions where CARE works to address food security, the climate is changing and we can see increased seasonal unpredictability including reduced overall rainfall and more frequent weather events. Whatever the causes are, we must support women and their families to recover, become more resilient and better able to cope with more frequent disasters.


Climate change continues to have adverse effects on food and nutrition security in African countries. 

  • Climate change has a direct effect on millions of people and undermines current agricultural efforts to reduce hunger and promote nutrition.
  • Poor nutrition, in turn, undermines vulnerable communities’ climate resilience and coping strategies, which further exposes weakened food systems. 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s food systems are already especially vulnerable to climate change because they remain underdeveloped and largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. 

Africa is experiencing the effects of climate change (like extreme dry spells and more intense rainy seasons) in tandem with other prevailing social and economic pressures that affect community resilience, including:

  • Economic slow-downs;
  • Demographic changes;
  • Population growth and urbanization;
  • Poor governance;
  • Persistent inequality;
  • Environmental degradation;,
  • And market failures.

In addition, smallholder farmers are Africa’s main agriculture producers –  more than half of whom are women – and they have limited access to financial resources, improved technologies, infrastructure and information they need to produce in the face of a changing climate. Climate change also has a greater impact on populations that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods (like farmers, ranchers and fishermen) and those with the least capacity to respond to natural disasters.  Women are commonly and disproportionately affected by climate change because of the prevailing social and economic inequalities that already exist in their communities.  

What’s Next?: By engaging women in climate resilient agriculture programs we can see significant progress towards sustainable development. Learn more about how CARE empowers women in their communities.


Why It’s Important: Traditionally, agricultural development has focused on increased production and production consequently leading to improved food availability and increased household incomes. High agricultural production and improved supply and availability of staple food and cash crops haven’t always led to improved nutritional statuses for agricultural producers. In fact, many African countries that have markedly increased agricultural production have made no major improvements in their citizens’ level of nutrition.

Climate change and improving food security and nutrition are interlinked issues that can and should be addressed simultaneously. However, after two years of implementing the Malabo commitments, many AU Member States are still taking a fragmented approach to address these issues.

The Malabo Declaration made a bold commitment to eliminate child malnutrition in Africa, decrease stunting to 10 percent and underweight individuals to 5 percent by 2025.The Biennial Report indicates, however, that malnutrition rates remain unacceptably high and that in 2017, more than a third of the world’s 155 million children with stunted growth live in Africa . In fact, Africa is the only region where the average stunting rates are increasing.

What’s Next?: CARE International, GMT and FANRPAN agree that in order to meet the nutrition targets set by the Malabo Declaration governments must ensure that all agricultural development investments be designed and implemented through a nutrition lens with special attention to:

  1. Food production for household consumption
  2. Income-oriented production for food, health and other non-food items
  3. Empowerment of women as agents
  4. Reduction in real food prices associated with increased agricultural production
  5. Nutrition-sensitive agricultural growth 


Why It’s Important: Agriculture accounts for 32 percent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and agriculture and agribusiness together could be a $1 trillion sector in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. Agriculture has long been considered an underperformer in the investment sector, but over the past 10 years, it has been recognized as the industry most capable of providing both sustained economic growth and social inclusion on the continent. More importantly, growth generated by agriculture in sub Saharan Africa is estimated to be 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth in other sectors – a vital multiplier given that 65 percent of the continent’s labor force is engaged in agriculture. And still, the agriculture sector has suffered sustained neglect and required government subsidy and donor funding.

By signing the Malabo Declaration, African leaders committed to tackling climate change by integrating a public-sector investment in agriculture. Additionally, they recommitted to spending 10 percent of their national budgets on agriculture. Apart from Malawi, CARE International’s analysis of budgetary allocations in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, and Mozambique revealed that Southern African governments are not meeting the 10 percent threshold. 

What’s Next?: As African countries move forward to address these issues, CARE International, GMT and FANRPAN’s recommends key priority actions related to climate smart agriculture, nutrition and agriculture investment. These recommendations not only bolster food security and nutrition, but also offer the greatest potential for increasing broad-based inclusive growth, reducing poverty and inequality and increasing resilience to economic shocks in Sub-Saharan Africa. The organizations further call on AU member states to develop strategies and roadmaps to help them achieve the 10 percent allocation to agriculture from the national budget.


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