In 2003, African leaders met in Maputo, Mozambique to try and stem the tide of Africa's long-standing hunger crisis. The need was critical - with Ethiopia experiencing widespread famine and drought threatening harvests throughout central and eastern Africa, the continent's food security challenges were becoming more daunting by the day.

But instead of sinking beneath the suffering of 2003, Africa rose to the challenge. At the meetings in Mozambique, African Union (AU) leaders committed themselves to reversing widespread neglect of the agricultural sector and ending hunger and poverty on the continent. AU heads of state promised to allocate 10% of their national budgets to agriculture and committed to an ambitious goal of 6% annual agricultural growth by 2008. In addition, they also adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), a framework for agricultural development that would be led by the African countries themselves and supported through donor organizations.

On Tuesday, March 26, a new report was released examining the successes and stumbling blocks experienced during the first ten years of CAADP's implementation. A Growing Opportunity: Measuring Investments in African Agriculture finds that while challenges remain, CAADP has been widely successful in highlighting the importance of agriculture and stimulating agricultural growth on the continent. To date, 24 African nations have signed CAADP agreements and launched solid plans to accelerate agricultural growth. Another six nations have committed to begin the process.

The report examines 19 of the 24 existing CAADP plans and finds that, of those 19, 8 countries are well on their way to meeting the first Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 and 13 have met their commitment to increase agricultural growth by 6% per year. Ethiopia has been leading the charge, committing an impressive 19.7% of its budget to agricultural development in 2011. This strong commitment has resulted in average annual agricultural growth of 24.2%, which has accelerated poverty reduction in the country, particularly in rural areas.

While Ethiopia provides an example of success, however, the report notes that much remains to be done in other nations. Out of the 19 countries examined, only four have met their target of a 10% budget allocation to agriculture. While an additional eight countries are not far behind this target, seven are seriously off track, spending less than 5% of their budgets on this important sector. Even more disappointing, six of these seven countries have actually reduced their agricultural spending in recent years.

The report calls for renewed commitment from the donor community as well as from African governments. While G8 leaders pledged in 2009 to provide $22 billion over three years to support sustainable agricultural development in Africa and other areas of the developing world, much of those funds have yet to actually be dispersed and put to work on the ground. In order to make real progress, it is crucial for governments and donors to work not only with each other, but also with local institutions like farmers' groups and women's organizations. Transparent programs focusing on inclusive growth will enable smallholder farmers, who make up the bulk of agricultural workers in the developing world, to be more resilient, productive, and economically secure.

Ten years after the birth of CAADP, African agriculture is poised to thrive, if it receives the necessary political and economic support. 2013 could be the year that ensures Africa's prosperity, the report concludes, "if African leaders and donors seize the opportunity."

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