A crucial meeting for the future of Africa’s agriculture and food situation is taking place in Arusha.
Several African heads of state, ministers and agricultural experts are
attending the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which is reviewing investments and policy support in driving agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers.
African leaders know very well the ailments of the continent’s agricultural sector and some of them have launched programmes to address some of the ills, but the problems have persisted.
African farmers too know very well that as long as they are at the mercy of the ever changing climate, which makes rains erratic and crop production highly unpredictable, they will be condemned to poverty as there are no reserves to call on when they experience crop failure.
Their methods of production do not guarantee their creditworthiness, which would allow expansion of farms and adoption of better technology.
As a result, despite 70 to 80 per cent of each member states’ population being engaged in farming, Africa has continued to suffer serious food deficits.
Yet Africa could feed itself and the world, now experiencing stock deficits and rising food prices.
Indeed it could create a sustainable base for financially supporting its unrewarded farmers.
President Jakaya Kikwete giving the opening address to the Forum yesterday also clearly pointed out some of the deficiencies holding down the continent’s agriculture, saying: “Farmers lack modern agricultural production skills and knowledge and do not have access to financial and other supportive services. Consequently, farm sizes are small, yields are low and revenue from agricultural activities remains meager. Therefore, many peoples who are predominantly dependent on agriculture form the bulk of the poor and so are their nations. It also makes food security situation precarious causing people in some places and countries to survive on food aid.”
He also pointed to the solutions: “We must scale up investment and innovation in agriculture. If we cannot do that all efforts to transform agriculture will be an exercise in futility.”
Former UN Secretary General Koffi Anan sums the situation as follows: “Agriculture in Africa is dominated by smallholder farmers, hence they need to be respected and be given all incentives needed.”
Anan is calling on African governments to come up with better agricultural policies that will help increase food crop production as a way of addressing hunger, and ravaging poverty.
The many stakeholders who interact with the African farmers, be they suppliers of inputs, buyers, financial institutions or agro-processors; must now ask themselves seriously whether they are doing enough to help the group overcome poverty.
We can only expect to solve the continent’s hunger and poverty when this majority population is adequately provided with the means to grow, process and store enough food, not only for the African continent, but a world seeing gradually dwindling food stocks.
So whatever it is that the delegates at the Forum agree to do this time, it must clearly and positively touch the farmers by seeking to improve their fortunes, which will then change the continent for the better.