Invest more in agriculture – Kofi Annan urges African gov’ts

28 September Print

Invest more in agriculture – Kofi Annan urges African gov’ts

The Chairman of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), Dr Kofi Annan, has called on African leaders not to be complacent despite the success chalked in the area of agriculture in the recent past.

He said it was time African leaders upheld their part of the bargain by increasing investments and encouraging public private partnerships to ensure that all farmers, large and small, contributed to ensuring food security on the continent.

“We cannot afford to lose the momentum in ensuring food security now and action is required from all governments on the continent and every partner to achieve this,” he said.

The former United Nations Secretary General was addressing the 2nd African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha Tanzania Thursday.

He said African governments must help farmers to expand their farms and to treat their farming activities as businesses.

He indicated that through the Alliance for a Green Revolution on Africa (AGRA) seven countries had been reached with 330 new varieties of crops while 380 hectares of land had been rejuvenated in the last three years.

Dr Annan said Africa could transform its agricultural sector significantly, if its leaders collaborated with the right partners. He added that strategic change would only occur with result oriented partnerships.

Tanzanian President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, blamed African leaders for not doing enough to ensure adequate investment in agriculture.

He noted that many African countries had failed to implement the 2003 Maputo Declaration which enjoined them to commit 10 per cent of their budgets to agriculture and thus leaving the sector undeveloped.

Opening the ongoing AGRF, President Kikwete said though African leaders knew what they needed to do to revolutionalise agriculture and help change the fortunes of millions of Africans whose lives depended on agriculture but regretted that had not been done.

He said: “We know what needs to be done, we are doing something about it but we have not done enough to support the development of agriculture in Africa.”

President Kikwete noted that if African leaders did not invest in agriculture, the much touted agricultural transformation would be like “a song without dancers.”

He said it was time for African leaders to adopt more effective ways of growing and developing agriculture on the continent to promote food security, enhance nutritional levels and create better living conditions for the people.

President Kikwete indicated that though most economies in Africa relied on agriculture, the sector remained backward characterised by traditional methods of farming, low use of improved seeds, fertilisers and lack of financial credits.

He said it was disturbing that despite the fact that about 70-80 per cent of Africa’s population were involved in agriculture, only five per cent of all arable land was irrigated in Africa.

Also he said Africa used only 10 per cent of the world’s fertiliser.The results, he said, had been small farm sizes, low yields, low income and poverty.

He said it was not surprising that about 239 million of the continent’s people were food insecure.

President Kikwete stressed the crucial need for African leaders to help scale up investments in agriculture by investing in irrigation, increasing support for research and agricultural development and supporting mechanised agriculture.

He called on leaders to be responsive to the needs of all farmers, especially small holder farmers, to reduce poverty and hunger and enhance living standards.

The President of the AGRA, Ms Jane Karuku, noted that misguided policies and neglect had affected the development of agriculture in Africa and stated that AGRA was committed to working to unlock the potentials in the agricultural sector of Africa.

She said subsistence farming should not be seen as an acceptable way of farming and that the AGRA continued to provide improved seeds and technical support, particularly for small holder farmers to improve their productivity and profitability and integrate them into competitive markets.

Ms Melinda Gates, Co-founder and Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said there was the need to improve agriculture in African countries if they wanted to see a change in the lives of its people.

Over 1,200 stakeholders in agriculture, including 14 heads of state, 23 ministers of agriculture, agri-business entrepreneurs and farmers are attending the forum in Arusha, Tanzania.

The AGRA is an initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help promote food security on the continent.

The three-day forum is being held on the theme: “Scaling Investment and Innovation for Sustainable Agricultural Growth and Food Security would discuss effective ways to ensure food security on the African continent.”                  

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