trueBy Moses Hategeka
“African countries have for decades depended on research and innovations from the developed world markets that are in most cases not tailored to meet the unique needs and situations of the African continent, this must change, and to meaningfully do so, African governments, must begin committing a greater part of their National budgetary resources to fund research, science, technology and Innovations, that are home grown and driven and geared not only to make the continent become food secure, but also a net exporter of food” says, Professor Thomas Jayne, of Department of agricultural, food and resource economics, Michigan State university, USA.
He added that, National agricultural research institutes and private organizations working in the area of agriculture in Africa, must increasingly collaborate and share research, so as to stimulate agricultural development and make the continent move forward in a sustainable manner, this was, during the RenAPRI 1st annual regional agricultural outlook symposium, that was held in Lusaka, Zambia, on 4-5th November, 2014, of Which I was also the delegate.
As you move deeper in African rural grass root communities, you will come cross millions of children suffering from stunted growth emanating from malnutrition, which is a common phenomena in millions of households in rural Africa, many households regularly sleeps hungry, despite toiling hard everyday, to become food secure.
According, to the 2013, FAO world hunger and poverty statistics, 240 millions people in Africa, are currently hungry, producing and living on an inadequate food, and are trapped in vicious cycle of poverty, however, there are some areas, in Africa, which regularly experiences bumper harvests of various crops, like maize, wheat, beans, millet, sorghum, bananas, cassava, etc, and where animal husbandry is doing well, with farmers initiating various agricultural projects and utilizing them, to overcome poverty
In all grass root communities in Africa that I have been and worked in training smallholder farmers in adopting evolving methods of productive and profitable farming, farmers have shown eagerness, to embrace agricultural science- led training, and are keenly interested to be linked to markets, financial institutions, and to be helped acquire, good quality planting seeds, seedlings, animals, and post harvest technologies, to make them boost their agricultural production levels and become food and financial secure
What is now crucial, is for African governments, to invest more in promoting joint Science, Technology, and Innovation strategies (STI), so that, the agricultural projects/initiatives, happening in one place/country, can also be replicated and make the farmers in other places/countries also boost their agricultural production and earnings, some countries, like Uganda, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and South Africa, are effectively utilizing their dry lands for massive, millet, sorghum, maize, and wheat production.
The National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) in Uganda, under its dry land cereal programme, have successfully developed two varieties of pearl millet, Serere Composite 1 & 11, which are draught tolerant, yield up to 2,500kg/ha, fast maturing, and are suitable for food, brewing, and livestock fodder, and Is currently being grown and harvested in dry areas of Uganda including Karamoja region, an arid and semi arid region, Kenya could the same in its Eastern and northern regions, and others African countries could do the same in their arid and semi arid areas, as we talk today, most of the arid and semi arid areas in Africa, are lying idle and unutilized, and are always affected by famine, hunger, and extreme high levels of poverty, yet with scientific and agricultural technological innovations, this can be reversed for better.
When it comes to value addition chain, African countries are at different stages, while Uganda, established a banana processing enterprise, that made the country, to now be producing, selling, and exporting valued added matooke, producing banana products like, Instant flour, raw flour, low amylase starch, and extrusion cooking of banana flour, and South Africa and Kenya, are producing and exporting Soya porridge, Soya cakes, powdered milk, and tinned meat, other countries, are still badly off, and even lack fruit processing enterprises, in their fruits producing areas, and many don’t even have, modern abattoirs in their popular animal keeping areas, as thus, there is need for more collaborations and linkages in the area of scientific, technology, innovation, and information sharing among African research institutes, scientists, innovators, policy makers, and implementers, to make other countries, also start unlocking their agricultural potential.
African countries must also coherently collaborate and ably fund the generation of affordable IT and climate change mitigation technologies, to minimize the negative effects of climate change on agriculture. We are living in a world, where climatic conditions are fast changing, and therefore farmers, must be fed with right agricultural information, like when to plant, which crops to plant, when to apply fertilizers, as well as market prices, all the time, in India, approximately five million farmers, are given on their cell phones, weather forecasts and advisories, when to plant, what crops to plant, when to apply fertilizers, as well as pesticides, in Uganda, Grameen Foundation project, is providing some farmers with right information, on climate, when to harvest, and market prices, through tailored tablet-based platforms, while in countries like, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, and Tanzania, national meteorological centers, are providing their farmers with similar/same information, other African countries, should also do the same.
Besides joint science, technology, and innovation collaborations, African countries, must harmonize their agriculture and trade policies, which, have for decades been and are still at divergent path, African countries, belongs to different regional trade blocs, such as East African community, (EAC), common market for eastern and southern Africa, (COMESA), Sothern Africa development community, (SADC) economic organization of west African community, (ECOWAS), among others, and adheres to these blocs trade protocols, which are not clearly harmonized at the moment and are negatively affecting agricultural trade and production, and are further complicated, by some countries like Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe etc having membership in more than one bloc
For instance, some countries like Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania regularly impose export restrictions on some of their staple crops like maize especially during the period of shortages, and also impose different import tariffs on imports originating from countries of which They don’t belong to the same trade bloc, Zambia, applies 15% on maize grain imports outside COMESA and SADC, Kenya charges 2.75% as import declaration fee on goods entering its territory, while trading in maize remains duty free.
In Malawi, pricing and marketing of crops are purely liberalized, except for maize, which have for years been and to date remains managed and controlled by government, while Mozambique is applying open market policy by allowing free trade of food staple commodities, these different trade policies, are affecting farmers in different ways, while import and export restrictions, may protect indigenous farmers and make them to become food secure, these restrictions may also keep millions of them in poverty, since they are not allowed to export and import freely to meet the skyrocketing demand of agricultural goods, which may be occurring at that particular moment.
In sum, besides, possessing sixty five per cent, of world’s remaining arable land, Africa’s comparative advantage in today’s global competitive world, is in agricultural sector, which the governments have to begin harnessing seriously, by collaborating, and committing, more financial resources, to science, technology, and innovations, that are developed by African institutions, to meet the continent agricultural needs, this should be accompanied with countries working together, sharing information, and harmonizing their trade and agricultural policies, geared towards establishing vibrant commodity exchanges, and support those already in existence, to attract financial institutions, offer reasonable contracts to farmers, reduce exchange transaction costs, over come trade manipulation, as these commodity exchanges, can, and will not only boost agricultural production but also agricultural profitability.
The writer a governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer