Food security a priority for Indian Ocean islands

Written by Jaëla Devakarne Modified on the

  • Conférence sur la sécurité alimentaire - 25 & 26 mars 2013 - Mahajunga (Madagascar)

Nearly 200 representatives from public and private sectors of the Indian Ocean islands met in Mahajunga, Madagascar on 25 & 26 March on the theme of food security in the Indian Ocean. The seminar was organized by the IOC and the aim of the meeting was to set up a collaborative regional food security scheme. The CIRAD took the opportunity to reiterate its commitment to food security research.

"We are not entirely safe from food security threats. Madagascar is one part of the solution. We are the other part," stressed Jean Claude de l'Estrac, general secretary of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) at the food security seminar [1]. The islands of the southwest Indian Ocean still import a large part of their staple diet from Asia, Europe and South America, putting them at the mercy of fluctuations in supply costs (over 20% from 2006 to 2009). Yet, Madagascar possesses 98% of the region’s total agricultural land (not counting sugar cane) and 90% of the region’s population ; the neighbouring islands represent an accessible market. Transforming Madagascar into the Indian Ocean’s “grainstore” was the issue at the heart of discussions of the March 25-26 seminar.

An ambitious project requiring an integrated approach

The seminar took place in the presence of four Malagasy ministers, indicating a desire to stabilize the country's politics ahead of the highly anticipated forthcoming elections. By way of introduction, EDBM (the Economic Development Board of Madagascar) outlined Madagascar’s potential in agricultural production. The regions of Sofia, Vakinankaratra and Menabe have been chosen to trial the production and marketing of new agricultural products in four key sectors : corn, beans, rice and onions. Respect for customary Malagasy law, the idea of a contract-typefarming model and the concept of an "inclusive market" also set the agenda for future collaborations. Finally, the involvement of private investors and the recommendations of development partners will determine the project’s success.

CIRAD to serve Indian Ocean researchers

Scientific and technical aspects were then discussed. Gilles Mandret, Regional Director of CIRAD Réunion / Mayotte, presented the ongoing regional food security cooperation projects. "EPRPV, QualiREG and Germination are examples of initiatives already underway to make this project a reality," he said. Coordination of phytosanitary legislation, plant protection, improving the quality of food products or the utilization of available genetic resources are essential to the project’s success.

The CIRAD has unveiled its "Dispositifs en Partenariat (DP)" scheme which will encourage networking between researchers and educators in the Indian Ocean, and strengthen the capacities of each country. This will include the organization of overseas visits for the various research programs. Centered around the "ecological intensification of agriculture", these schemes are dedicated to the following themes : Human/Animal Health, designing food quality systems,Biodiversity, Plant Health and the impacts of agricultural activities on the environment. The CIRAD’s proposal to establish a Regional Platform for Agricultural Research and Development (PReRAD), which brings together schemes in Madagasacar and Réunion with various other partners, was selected as a key asset in the IOC’s food security project.

After the conference sessions, the thematic working groups have formalized expectations of potential project partners. In the coming months, the General Secretariat of the IOC will define the future of the project budget for the next meeting of the Council of Ministers in early 2014, before presenting for funding under the11th EDF.

[1] Definition of "Food Security" used since the World Food Conference of 1996: " when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life."  

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