After decades of neglect there are very encouraging signs of a new beginning for African agriculture.
The challenges are many and all too familiar. Africa is on course to more than double its population over the next 40 years. It faces threats to its already far too low and stagnant yields from soil erosion, declining soil fertility, malnutrition, disease and climate change. At this rate how will Africa ever feed itself?
The good news is that there is growing recognition by African governments of three key lessons from the stagnation of the past.
First is the growing recognition that the private sector has to drive agricultural growth. Second is that governments have to provide the enabling environment that is critical for businesses that operate across the entire agriculture value chain, from the farmer to the consumer’s table. Third is that agriculture is far too important to be the exclusive preserve of ministries of agriculture. A joined up whole-of-government effort is needed to provide effective delivery of key support services, from ports, roads, water, energy to the establishment and protection of property rights.
There also is the wonderful convergence of increased focus funding of agriculture by African governments themselves as well as growing donor support and private sector interest in investing in agriculture, especially in smallholder agriculture. More than a handful of countries now have signed Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programs that will hopefully lead to solid results-based action plans to which they are prepared to be held accountable and real competition between governments for funding. Nine African countries now are committing 10 percent of their public spending to agriculture. Add to that more than $20 billion in commitments to food security by the G8 and billions more in private investment in African agriculture.
The key to poverty reduction and growth in Africa is to ensure that this renewed and reinvigorated focus on agriculture transforms smallholder agriculture.
This has been Africare’s agriculture focus for over four decades—improving farmer productivity and farmers’ access to markets to improve their incomes and livelihoods in the rural communities in which the live. We do it by empowering and supporting local people, local institutions and local governments. It is where we are intensifying our support to Africa because, as Professor Gebisa Ejeta, the 2009 World Food Prize Laureate says, “no amount of external funding will bring about transformative change unless it is locally led.”
Next month I will feature some examples of Africare’s work in agriculture across the continent and the concrete results we have achieved in improving yields, reducing post-harvest losses and increasing farmer incomes.
In the meantime, Pass It On!
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