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Monday, 22 July 2013
FARA: How Africa Can Feed Africa
DESPITE the fall in productivity of Africa’s agriculture over the years occasioned by seasons of under-investment and an ill-advised structural adjustment, there is yet a lot to be done to feed the continent’s huge and fast-growing population.
Global figures in agriculture and research agree, as they met in Accra, Ghana that ‘funding to agriculture, to universities and to research centres fell steadily and steeply,’ leading to a reversal of the many gains of the past.
Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President articulated as much when he addressed the Sixth Forum of Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) summit in the Ghanaian capital during the week.
He said, “Our universities lost good people. The quality of education declined,” amid a great decline in “average global spending on agricultural research.” But he said there are growing signs that
African nations are once more focused on investing in agriculture for growth.
Nwanze revealed, “The continent has the fastest growing population and the highest rate of urbanisation in the world, along with a growing middle class driving demand for better quality produce.” So, the primary market for our produce, while being assured also has place in world trade.
There is trust that the place of exploiting the frontiers of science, innovation, knowledge and experimentation as well as thinking outside the box. However, Nwanze argued, “We must also be careful not to get carried away by a desire to always be at the cutting edge of modern technology.”
Certainly, “new breakthroughs have their place in agricultural development but that technology is only a tool. It is not an end in itself.”
He pointed out that what is called ‘Subsistence agriculture’ is basically an under-performing agricultural system. Therefore, research and technology must be seen as a development tool to feed the continent and reduce poverty and create jobs.
Also at the summit, Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga, in a release by the Institute, said efforts by Africans to feed themselves and escape the food importation trap and put the continent on the path to economic growth must give attention to soil fertility.
Addressing participants at the Africa Agriculture Science Week, Sanginga highlighted the impact of agricultural research over the years and concluded that Africa must adopt scientific innovations and pay attention to natural resource management to drive the agricultural development agenda.
The IITA chief expressed optimism for Africa’s agricultural transformation, highlighting the increasing attention being paid to agriculture by governments on the continent.
However, he reiterated that efforts need to focus on restoring soil fertility, creating an enabling environment for market policies, and developing more resilient and productive farm systems.
He warned against policies that limit African researchers from taking advantage of modern technologies, stressing that such a move would deprive Africa from making progress and put the continent farther from the African Green Revolution.
According to Institute’s release, the 6th Africa Agricultural Science Week provided an opportunity for Africans and partners to rethink the commitment by African governments 10 years ago, which also led to the establishment of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
CAADP focuses on improving food security, nutrition, and increasing incomes in Africa’s largely farming based economies. It aims to do this by raising agricultural productivity by at least six per cent per year and increasing public investment in agriculture to 10 per cent of national budgets per year. So far, only a few countries have met the CAADP targets.
Nwanze said there is still a lot to be done in the context of the ever-changing and increasing challenges choking agricultural development in Africa.
He noted that the world is producing enough but that the food is not reaching those that need it most.
The IFAD President called for a paradigm shift in addressing food insecurity in Africa.
According to him, research and development need to be “repositioned” into research for development to bring the benefits of research to the farm.
He advised scientists to ensure that their research is in consonance with the reality on ground and that it addresses the challenges of development in an empirical manner.