The lessons and ideas are to be used as an input into country-driven development of the agricultural and rural sector, he said.
The five day forum is under the theme The Bottom of the Pyramid: Agricultural Development for the Vulnerable.
“In spite of the positive socio-economic and political gains that have been recorded in the past 10 years, Africa remains a troubled continent. This is a continent where famine and diseases are widespread. A continent where 200 million people are undernourished and 33 million children are malnourished and go to sleep hungry every night,” Mr. Mkandawire said.
He warned that in absence of some real tangible emergency and long term measures-food prices are set to remain high for most African countries over the next couple of years.
The AU and NEPAD have been advocating for African agricultural capacity building, so that African countries can better develop their agricultural capacities.
Endorsed by the AU in 2003, CAADP is an Africa-led and Africa-owned NEPAD initiative and framework to rationalise and revitalise African agriculture for economic growth and lasting poverty reduction results.
“In this light, may I state that the African Union and NEPAD will play a lead role in ensuring that the knowledge generation centres, through the Regional Economic Communities, work very closely with the countries in enhancing and strengthening the national round table processes and we shall endeavour to mobilise the relevant resources to support this process,” Mr. Mkandawire said.
While opening the conference on Monday at Laico Regency Hotel, Agriculture minister William Ruto said five children were dying of hunger every five seconds worldwide.
“Globally, we have one billion hungry people, meaning one-sixth of all humanity is hungry and malnourished.
“This figure represents over 100 million more hungry people than in 2008 and out of these, five children die every 30 seconds. Beyond the numbers, this means horrible suffering for children, women, men, relatives, friends or neighbours. This is mankind’s tragic achievement in these modern days when our technology allows us to travel to the moon and to space stations,” the minister said.
In Africa, Mr Ruto said, 218 million people or 30 percent of population were suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition.
*This article first appeared on The Nation Website http://www.nation.co.ke/ on December 2, 2009. Mr. Lucas Barasa is an active member of the CAADP Network of Journalists.