Published On: Mon, Sep 8th, 2014

African Green Revolution Forum: Matters arising

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African Green Revolution Forum: Matters arising

African Green Revolution Forum: Matters arising

African leaders, farmers and stakeholders have again been stimulated to begin to grab the myriad of potentials that abound in the continent’s agricultural sector, as the World plans to contain anticipated nine billion population in 2050. This, and several other issues took center stage at the just concluded four-day African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) held in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa. Mohammad Kandi, writes.

All the issues discussed at the forum, hinged prominently on ways of addressing food security. Increasing food productivity, ending hunger; agricultural adaptation to climate change; and sustainable, inclusive agricultural growth were also incorporated.

In the analysis of Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat (2007), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), projects that “food and feed production will need to increase by 70 percent by 2050, to meet the world’s food needs. Baseline projections of the FAO indicate that the world should be able to meet the food and feed demand in 2050. It can be done with realistic rates of land use, water use and yield increases although there will be challenges along the way. However, researchers at the University of Minnesota, project that food demand will double by 2050.”

Africa, more than any continent in the world, hitherto holds the highest agricultural potential that could singlehandedly feed humanity ahead of the projected extra two billion human populations by 2050. Agricultural land (% of land area) in Sub Saharan Africa was last measured at 44.67 in 2009, according to the World Bank.

But to harness these potentials—to transform African economies, to boost farmers’ yield per hectare, and to enhance food export, a lot still needs to be done—the use of right technology, right policies and programmes, as well as political will by African governments.

Like the previous agricultural round-tables on the continent, the Addis Ababa forum, which was co-organised by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the African Union (AU), and 9 other partners, aimed at repositioning the African ‘thinking’ and ‘perception’ on treating agriculture as a business, the way it is being done to stimulate economies in other parts of the world. The intention is also to address some ills in the sector—partaking in global trends such as agricultural bio-technology, not to ‘miss out’ of programmes and ideas that are capable of boosting the economy.

In the analysis of some experts, Africa’s agriculture has among other factors, remained at a low developmental stage missing out of the previous the Green Revolution programmes.

A report titled: “On Trial: GM Crops in Africa” and published by think tank Chatham House, London, said Africa was in danger of missing out on capitalising on innovations offered by the 21st Century green revolution that boosted food output in many Asian and Latin American nations, asserting further that “Increasing agricultural productivity and adapting farming to climate change are central to Africa’s development prospects.”

It added that “in some cases, biotechnology, and in particular genetic modification (GM), offers advantages over conventional plant-breeding approaches such as drought, pest and disease resistance.”

However, the African leaders had used the AGRF as means of ‘getting it right’ this time on its agricultural evolution. Apart from recognizing value chains as a major priority, agricultural experts noted during the forum, the importance of connecting producers with consumers through well-functioning markets just as the need for private sector involvement in supply chains continues to grow.

The AGRF, which has a theme: “Beyond the Tipping Point: a New Vision and Strategies for Inclusive and Sustainable Transformation”, noted that there is an increased sense of urgency among African Heads of State and Government to live up to the commitments they made regarding delivery on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Speaking at the occasion, the CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, emphasized the need to stimulate broader conversations by sharing ideas, views and insights and said “AGRF offers a perfect opportunity for such dialogue, bringing together nearly 1,100 leaders of governments, agribusinesses, farmer organizations and others to generate strategies in support of the African Union’s new vision for Agriculture and Food Security.”

Sibanda recalled that a latest research shows that “more than 200 million Africans are still chronically malnourished, with 5 million –most of them children –dying of hunger every year; half of all children are stunted.”

Similarly, the President of the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Jean Lebel, stressed in a statement by the forum the need for experts to harness the power of both science- and farmer-based knowledge to develop the right crops, tools, techniques, and expertise for smallholder farmers and their communities.

Dr. Lebel said: “There is need to be nimble, to be ready to seize opportunities when research produces promising results. We also need to recognize when expectations are not going to be met, and scale back.”

In the same vein, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumuslime, had in information posted on AGRF website by its media team, called upon on all stakeholders and partners to work together in the African agricultural transformation drive.

“We are keen to enhance the capabilities of our institutions across the continent to engage in this effort and transform their scientific research findings and innovations into applicable practices for African farmers, especially smallholders,” Tumusiime said adding “beyond meeting farmers’ needs through research; we also must to reach Africa’s agribusiness stakeholders and bridge gaps between research and policy making.”

In a statement by his Chief press secretary, Tony Ohaeri, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, arguing that African farmers deserve the same kind of support lavished on their peers in developed countries.

“While developed countries support their farmers with massive subsidies, African farmers, who are poor, are barely supported,” Adesina said.

Challenged by an audience who portrayed farm subsidies as government programs that are particularly vulnerable to corruption, Adesina stated that “The problem is not subsidies but how subsidies are delivered.”

Adesina believes that subsidy programs—if transparent and efficient—are particularly important “in the early phases of agricultural transformation to ensure that the poor, especially women and smallholders, benefit from technical change.”

Nevertheless, it is sad to know that after making intensive effort by stakeholders to correct the ills that have over the years bedeviled agriculture in the Sub-Saharan African, a little or no move is being made to sustain the drive. Recall that several discussions that have been held in this regard are still unattended and are battling for consideration of, especially head of African governments.

For instance, reneging on the Maputo declaration by most African leaders was a huge setback for the agricultural sectors on the continent. Ten years after that declaration, which Nigeria was a party to, the country’s federal budgetary provision for agriculture is less than 2%, while the state’s average about 4% nationally.

This is far contrary to the prominent decisions arrived at during the African Union (AU) Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, which advocated for a commitment of at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.

In a related development, Nigeria, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2011 statistics has a total land area of 91,077,000 Hectares with an agricultural area of 76,200,000 Hectares. In simple terms, about 83.7% of the land in Nigeria is arable, out of which less than half is currently under cultivation.

Basically, absence of political will, research and technology, as well as evident corrupt practices by successive governments in Nigeria, and by extension, Africa at large was responsible for the decay of the continent’s agriculture.

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