We can pick key lessons from China’s agricultural revolution
Posted Wednesday, September 18 2013 at 01:00
The government should then deliberately improve governance issues, stamp out corruption, substantially increase budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector and concentrate on improving initiatives that it has started.
Uganda’s agriculture movement has suffered serious setbacks overtime. The political turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to the collapse of Uganda’s economy did not spare the sector.
Despite the historical and geographical differences, there are vital lessons Uganda can learn from China’s agricultural revolution. Although we may have had scattered agricultural successes, a broad agricultural revolution is far from being achieved. Food production is still largely a backward sector where skills, research and technology are glaringly lacking.
The need to look at agriculture as a knowledge-based enterprise that demands smart investments to trigger a multiplier effect in other sectors is more urgent today. China’s example proves that indeed, smallholder agriculture is capable of driving an agricultural revolution.
The rural policy statement was regarded as the “Number One” policy document in China. The agricultural policy reforms enjoyed utmost political priority and benefited from competent public leadership through the structures from central to local units. It simply had to work.
Cluster development also produced amazing results. One of the poorest areas of Shandong Province in China was turned into a “Vegetable City” with more than 53,000 hectare vegetation plantations boosting of more than 700 vegetable varieties and producing approximately four million tons annually.
Other lessons include: Putting in place a vibrant public investment policy for small farmer leaning agricultural research and education to act as incentive, ensuring soil fertility is in check to guarantee per capita food production, public policies designed to increase incentives for smallholder farming, encouraging creation of off-farm jobs and rural industries through unique rural enterprise schemes, encouraging decision making to be strictly evidence-based, progressively broaden markets to encourage specialisation and investment into agriculture.
The fruits of this revolution have been staggering. The farmers’ incomes grew by 7 per cent per annum. This development has enabled a population of about 200 million smallholder farmers with each utilising an average of 0.65 hectares to feed a population of 1.3 billion people. You can now estimate how many such smallholder farmers Uganda needs to feed a simple population of 37 million.
From 31 per cent in 1978, the incidence of poverty dropped to 2.5 per cent in 2008. In fact, the contribution of agriculture to poverty reduction is reported to have been three times higher than that of other sectors of the economy.
From an African perspective, there is no doubt that the development of agriculture on the continent is intricately linked to general economic prosperity. In other words, it is futile to attempt to achieve overall economic development without first solving the food security question.
In addition to such lessons, the government should then deliberately improve governance issues, stamp out corruption, substantially increase budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector and concentrate on improving initiatives that it has started.
It is important to: Increase agro-processing and enterprise efficiency, avail viable credit facilities to smallholders farmers, make real the services of extension workers at sub-county or parish levels, avail irrigation technology at subsidised costs, immediately construct warehouses and silos at district and regional levels to guarantee food storage and protect smallholder farmers from exploitation while checking market food price volatility, establish soil and other agriculture laboratories in rural areas to make such technologies available to local communities, urgently carry out a national soil status analysis to competently advice farmers on fertilizers to apply to increase productivity, and solve the problem of poor seeds on the markets by availing subsidised improved seeds and other planting materials, improve sectoral linkages by integrating agriculture with other sectors, become partners of larger regional markets, cluster development, revitalise school gardens and encourage early agricultural education at all levels of society.
Mr Masake is a co-Founder, Social Justice Support Center.
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