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Investment in agriculture Africa’s path to prosperity

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th November 2009 03:00 AM

AFRICAN farmers are seeding prosperity. Marie Nerica who is sowing a new breed of Nerica rice in Sierra Leone is one example. She now produces enough rice to sell the surplus in local markets and to the government.

AFRICAN farmers are seeding prosperity. Marie Nerica who is sowing a new breed of Nerica rice in Sierra Leone is one example. She now produces enough rice to sell the surplus in local markets and to the government.

By Prof. Richard Mkandawire

AFRICAN farmers are seeding prosperity. Marie Nerica who is sowing a new breed of Nerica rice in Sierra Leone is one example. She now produces enough rice to sell the surplus in local markets and to the government.

Her success sprang from the government’s renewed commitment to agriculture, sealed when it recently signed a contract known as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The programme is coordinated by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Peter and Joanina Kibuti in Kenya’s Embu town are another set of farmers who have benefited from new breeds. Using improved seed, fertiliser, government vouchers and the advice of extension officers, they more than tripled their maize yields.

Joanina is happy because, for the first time, she is able to pay her daughter’s school fees on time. Their success sprang from work supported by the Kenyan government and by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, (AGRA). Its integrated programmes in seeds, soil health, markets policy and innovative finance are transforming smallholder farming and agricultural value chains in 14 countries.

NEPAD and AGRA are poised to scale-up such successes in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, as they join forces to boost agricultural productivity.

The two African-led initiatives recognise that to achieve food security and spur economic development, African countries need to substantially raise the productivity and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers.

Everyday, 218 million Africans go without food and 38% of children under five are malnourished. Hunger and malnutrition is most acute among the families of rural farmers, who have struggled for decades without support. The partnership between AGRA and NEPAD — which both have African roots and broad global support — opens a new chapter in Africa’s agricultural development.

NEPAD has mobilised political support among African governments to prioritise and invest in agriculture. It works through CAADP, which was endorsed by the African Union Assembly in 2003. Critically, CAADP pledges African governments to devote at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture.

Progress has been meaningful: 12 countries have now signed CAADP compacts and some countries, including Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mali, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria have met the 10% goal.

But much more remains to be done, and quickly, as the mounting pressure of population growth, climate change and global food price volatility continue to work against Africa’s food security.

The new partnership, launched on November 9 2009 in Abuja, Nigeria, pledges the two organisations to work together through CAADP country roundtable processes which plan strategic investments in agriculture.

The roundtables allow all partners, from farmers’ organisations to government ministries, to identify targeted investments which can spur the agricultural value chain and accelerate the production of food surpluses.

The two partners join hands to advocate for policies that support smallholder farmers; build countries’ parliamentary and institutional policy-making capacity; build the capacity of Africa’s public and private institutions to co-convene an annual African Green Revolution Conference.

Helping Africa to feed itself and transform its agriculture into a productive, competitive and environmentally sustainable system is the greatest challenge of our time. African leaders have called for a uniquely African green revolution — one that fits Africa’s needs and raises the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.

It is our hope that through these organisations the lives of African farmers will be improved and a new era of food security and prosperity will be ushered in.
The writer is the head of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme

Investment in agriculture Africa’s path to prosperity

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