Tuesday, December 11, 2012

IFAD and AGRA call for continued investments in Africa's farming

Two institutions committed to transforming Africa’s agriculture have called for a continued global push for governments and the private sector to increase smart investments in Africa’s agriculture.  

President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze and President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Jane Karuku, addressed a group of international media in London, after speaking at the Chatham House Food Security 2012 Sustainable Intensification: Miracle or Mirage conference.

They emphasized that farming is a business and the private sector must fuel the development of Africa’s agribusiness in upgrading smallholder agriculture to meet demand from foreign and emerging markets in developing countries.

“Smallholders are a vast and underutilised resource. These are the people we work with – whether smallholders, pastoralists or herders – not just to increase productivity, but to nurture the land, to improve their businesses and strengthen market access. IFAD supports projects that enable these farmers to feed themselves, educate their children and invest in the growth of their own communities.

“Rural people are not just aid recipients, they are partners. They must be part of the process of designing and realizing developing from the very beginning. Development efforts can only succeed when the people we serve are convinced that the will grow more food, earn more money and feed themselves better,” said Nwanze.

Emphasizing the critical role of agriculture to reduce poverty, improve food security, and create a better future for all Africans, Karuku said, “Agricultural intensification and ecological farming are not contradictory concepts, but rather two approaches that can be used in a complimentary fashion to put Africa on a pathway towards attaining food security.”

“Everything we do must be geared towards empowering smallholder producers, especially women, enabling them to transition from subsistence farming to running their farms as profitable businesses, and to market their surpluses,” she said.

Jane Karuku argued that what Africa needs is practical blend of locally appropriate farming practices, as well as new technologies brought about by on-going research efforts.

“But at the end of the day, any approach must be driven by the need to improve smallholder productivity while protecting – and even improving – the natural resource base,” she added. 

“Sustainable agricultural intensification is an achievable, knowledge-intensive, and necessarily complex process of increasing agricultural productivity by building on and caring for farm- and landscape-level biodiversity.”

Both Nwanze and Karuku shared their optimism for Africa’s future and the world’s ability to achieve food and nutrition security as African governments begin to implement policies that encourage both public and private investment in their agricultural sectors. 

Meanwhile, former UN Secretary-General and Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kofi Annan, has outlined how food and nutrition security, particularly for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, can be achieved by transforming agriculture and reshaping the global food security system.

Speaking at the high-level Flagship Forum: “Securing Food, Harvesting the Future”, in Berlin, Mr. Annan warned that “in an era of plenty, nearly one in eight people do not have enough food to eat and another billion lack the nutrition necessary for proper health and development.”

He outlined the serious threat to food and nutrition security from the damaging impact of climate change, stating that “vast areas of once-fertile land are no longer productive. Rising temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns are reducing crop yields.”

Mr. Annan therefore called for climate-resilient and climate-smart agriculture. “New crops and techniques must be developed so the productivity of land and intensity of farming can be increased, without harming the environment or biodiversity on which our food security depends”, he said.

The AGRA Chair also urged world leaders from the public and private sectors to accelerate investment in agriculture in developing countries where he believes there is the need and the potential to increase agricultural production and productivity are greatest.

“Food production can’t be increased at the speed and scale needed without mobilizing the army of small-holder farmers in developing countries”, observed Mr. Annan, who also called for fair and equitable global trade rules to allow crops to be sold at fair prices.

He said that the global community has to provide “effective, efficient and equitable market access policies for food”.

Recognising Africa’s strong economic growth, and increased investment and revenues from the extractive industries, Mr. Annan emphasized that “there is still a great deal to be done to ensure this money is used wisely for the long-term benefit of all the country’s citizens”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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