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News: PM Abiy’s FAO award sparks mixed reactions, draws criticism to the UN agency

PM Abiy Ahmed received FAO’s prestigious Agricola medal award on Sunday (Photo: PM Office Ethiopia/X)

Addis Abeba – The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has awarded Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed the prestigious Agricola Medal for his leadership, and commitment to food security.

The Agricola Medal according to FAO, honors “distinguished personalities for their commitment and support to the promotion of sustainable food production, world food security, and international cooperation”.

After receiving the medal at a ceremony held in Italy’s capital on Sunday, PM Abiy posted on X, expressing his gratitude to the UN agency for “bestowing the prestigious Agricola Medal for our efforts towards the attainment of food security.”

“Our focus on high-value and industrial crops is yielding promising results and we are committed to our food sovereignty path,” he said.

The award was welcomed by supporters of the PM as a “well deserved” recognition for his initiative of wheat self-sufficiency which saw Ethiopia export wheat reportedly for the first time last year.

The PM’s foreign policy adviser and former Ethiopia permanent representative to the UN, Taye Atskesellasie applauded FAO for recognizing PM Abiy’s leadership in transforming the agricultural sector. “Indeed when the lives of farmers improve so is the country’s,” Taye wrote on X.

However, the award also produced strong criticisms against the FAO for accolading the leader of a country that is currently witnessing one of the worst droughts and hundreds of its citizens dying of hunger.

Currently, 6.6 million people in Ethiopia are reported by the government to be in need of urgent food aid due to the effects of ongoing drought. The government is pleading for 9.2 billion birr to provide emergency food assistance for those in need.

In the hard hit northern regions of Tigray and Amhara hundreds have been reported dead due to hunger. Regional officials in Tigray said close to 400 individuals, including 25 children, have succumbed to starvation within a single month.

“The irony of the international order has reached a new level now with the FAO, a UN entity founded to ensure food security and improve agriculture, awarding the head of the regime in Addis Ababa, where thousands, particularly farmers in Tigray and Amhara, are dying of starvation,” Mehari Tadele Maru, a leading scholar on governance, and a professor in European University Institute posted on X.

“FAO and its leadership is condoning the atrocities including the deliberate use of starvation and destruction of agricultural assets of farmers in various parts of Ethiopia,” Mehari asserted.

While some social media users defended the PM positing that climate change among other various factors may have exacerbated food insecurity, others made him accountable presenting food insecurity as a policy failure, and called the award a “mockery” to the millions of starving Ethiopians.

Others drew contrasts between the rationales of the award and a recent FAO-WFP early warning on hunger, which classified Ethiopia under “hunger hotspots of very high concern” with 20.1 million people facing acute food insecurity. AS

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