Moscow – Irina Bokova, the Chair of the PhosAgro Board of Directors Sustainable Development Committee, spoke about the Company's support for sustainable agriculture in Africa at the online conference hosted in the course of “Africa Industrialisation Week 2020”.
The main organisers of the event have traditionally been the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the African Union. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also supported the forum.
At the session “The Future of Employment for Young Women and Men in Africa: Accelerating Job Creation in Agriculture and Agribusiness in the post COVID-19 crisis setting”, experts discussed tools for creating new jobs and reducing poverty among young Africans, enhancing the role of agribusiness in creating jobs and increasing the economic competitiveness of the region, measures to improve the region’s resilience to crises such as COVID-19, and much more.
Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General of the FAO, said: “Youth employment is an important political priority for Africa, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. Success in creating jobs and income opportunities for Africa’s youth is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the Malabo Declaration commitments and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.”
Josefa Leonal Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, said: “As of 2019, almost 60% of Africa’s population was under 25, making Africa the youngest continent in the world. Given that agriculture is an important driver of economic development and an area of great opportunity for young people in Africa, development of the agri-food system value chain will improve the sector’s image, increase labour productivity and return on investment, and attract more young people to the industry.”
“To encourage more people to work in agriculture, it is essential to make this sphere more attractive, more profitable and more stable through investment in human capital”, said Ronald Guendel, Global Head of Food Security and Advocacy at Bayer AG. “We need to build partnerships in order to truly transform agriculture. Together we can eradicate poverty, improve working conditions and build a new future for African agriculture and food security around the world.”
Ms Bokova, the Chair of the PhosAgro Board of Directors Sustainable Development Committee, stressed the need to develop and support the region’s economy, especially during the crisis caused by the pandemic. At the same time, while favouring the development of the agro-industrial sector, the problem of soil degradation, which is acute on the continent, must not be forgotten. According to FAO statistics, 40% of the land in Africa suffers from degradation. Of the 80 countries where the problem is most acute, 36 are in Africa. And the main reason for soil degradation is the ingress of contaminants, primarily cadmium, from the fertilizers used by local farmers.
As a company whose products do not contain concentrations of cadmium or other toxic substances that are harmful for human health and soils, PhosAgro for its part, is already working to protect local soil resources. “In 2018, PhosAgro became the first Russian company in the history of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization to be selected to implement a global soil protection initiative. The company partnered with the FAO for the launch of a network of soil laboratories in 30 African countries that are going to evaluate the quality and safety of fertilizers and monitor the health of soils”, noted Ms Bokova. Together, PhosAgro and FAO are teaching farmers about state-of-the-art agricultural technologies, the proper use of land resources and fertilizer application.
In addition, PhosAgro, together with UNESCO and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, provides annual grants to young scientists from around the world for research related to protecting human health and the environment. Over the course of six years, the international jury has reviewed more than 600 applications and selected 41 young researchers as grant recipients, including 11 talented African scientists.
“This sort of partnerships with governments, international organisations, research laboratories, scientists, as well as with civil society and the private sector, is necessary to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, concluded Ms Bokova.