By Joel Ogwang in Botswana
Agriculture experts have rallied African governments to increase their’ budgetary allocation to agriculture in line with their pledge in the 2003 Maputo Declaration.
In the vow mkade under the auspices of the African Union (AU), the African heads of state pledged to increase their countries’ annual budgetary allocation on agriculture to 10%, a feat that would enable the continent attain a 6% food production growth by 2015.
The 10% budgetary increase would also enable these countries to fast-track the Millennium Development Goal-1 that targets eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.
By increasing food production, the governments would be able to curtail acute famine, malnutrition and poverty that currently dog the continent, resulting in low productivity, death and under-development, the over 400 delegates from 45 African countries and beyond heard during the first African agricultural extension week held in Gaborone, Botswana recently.
“Our governments can do a lot more in increasing food production if they raise the national budgets to 10% as agreed on in (the Maputo Declaration in) 2003,” said Dr. Silim Nahdy, the former NAADS boss and current African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) executive director.
The conference sought to build networking, exploration of new developments and trends in agricultural production, raise the profile of agriculture extension services and identify sector challenges, especially climate change.
With the world population now estimated at seven billion, more food production will be needed when the world population clocks nine billion by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.
Abraham Sarfo, the Agriculture Technology and Vocational Education New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) advisor said low funding of agriculture was confining Africans into importing foodstuffs.
“Why should we import eggs from Brazil and create markets for them yet we can produce sufficient eggs for local consumption and export? Our governments need to prioritise agriculture and give it adequate funding,” he said.
The AFAAS board chairman, Adolphus Johnson, noted that through NEPAD, the AU prioritized increased food production to combat the twin dangers of poverty and malnutrition.
“Until we invest enough resources in advisory services, we will not solve the issue of (national) food insecurity, but this (advisory services) has for a long time been fragmented and the practice well-focused,” he said.
“AFAAS is at the forefront of increasing farmers’ awareness through advisory services. This requires government support for effectiveness,” Jophnson added.
Former agriculture state minister and current NAADS board chairman, Aggrey Bagiire, called for reorganisation of farmers to boost food production in Uganda.
“Our farmers’ organization structures are weak. Right now, NAADS has got institutions, but what happens if it goes away? Our farmers must come together if the Government is to help them,” he said. Botswana, since prioritising agriculture, has tripled its food production over the last three years, said Christian de Graaff, the Botswana agriculture minister.
“We produce 50% of the food required locally and import the other half. Our target is meeting all our food need as well as export (the surplus),” he said.