Wednesday July 9 2014

Africa should invest more in agriculture

By Ssali Micheal

Much as many Sub-Saharan African leaders appear committed to developing agriculture, only few of them are prepared to devote adequate funds to the sector.

This year’s African Union (AU) Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, allocated some time to expose the weakness in a panel discussion during which, Kanayo F Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), called for increased investment in Africa’s small farms.
The panel discussion opened by Ms Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, laid special emphasis on the importance of the small scale farmer.

Small farms make up 80 per cent of the farms in Sub-Saharan Africa and the AU has designated 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security. The United Nations has also marked the year, 2014, as the International Year for Family Farming.

Viable future
The press release from Malabo says: “The AU Summit marks 10 years from the signing of the Maputo Declaration in Mozambique, where Sub-Saharan African countries promised to allocate 10 per cent or more of their national budgets to agriculture. So far, only seven have done so consistently.”
For the record, Uganda has consistently allocated less than five per cent of its budget to the sector despite its rapidly growing population and the increasing crop-destroying pests and diseases as well as rising climatic challenges.

Nwanze said, “We have no excuse. Africa has the largest share of uncultivated land with rain-fed crop potential. Many African nations are becoming economic powerhouses, but without a viable agricultural sector and a strong rural economy, I do not see a viable future for Africa.”

Describing agriculture as a well-documented engine for economic growth and poverty reduction in developing nations, he added that Africa imports $35b worth of food every year, which should be grown in Africa by Africans.

He went on to say that 60 per cent of the people in Africa depend wholly or partly on agriculture and that most of them live below the poverty line. Other than handouts, the farmers need access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology and policies that make it easier for them to do business.