InformAfrica – Top players in African agriculture recently gathered in Nairobi to present five policies they hope if adopted, will result in rapid growth of the continent’s agriculture and improve on food security.
Organized by the Global Development Network (GDN), the workshop had 35 attendees drawn from public and private agricultural bodies within Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region.
The workshop themed supporting policy research to inform agricultural policy in SSA and south Asia was a result of 12 months of research on issues that affect agriculture in SSA. According to George Mavrotas the Chief Economist of the Global Development Network, transforming small scale farming into viable commercial farming is crucial to reducing poverty in the region. The policy briefs addressed issues and provided solutions Africa can adopt to increase farm productivity.
Chris Ackello Ogutu from the University Of Nairobi’s agricultural economics department pointed to climate change as a major threat to rural livelihoods if communities there don’t learn agronomical adaption. Ogutu urged Africa’s agricultural stakeholder to put “safety nets” to address rural communities at risk of climate change effects.
He also noted agriculture needed to employ more youth to counter rural unemployment leading to rapid rural-urban migration. Key to that according to Ogutu would be governments allocating at least of 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture. Also “private, public partnerships will lead to increased agricultural investment and food security,” added Ogutu.
Saa Dittoh of the University of Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana emphasized on the importance of increased fertilizer use in Sub Saharan Africa farmlands. “We are the lowest region in fertilizer use,” said Dittoh. At an average of 20kg per hectare fertilizer Dittoh noted Africa lags behind regions in Asia where 100kg of fertilizer are applied per hectare. Ditto added challenges plague fertilizer acquisition by small holder farmers (SHFs) through high prices, untimely or no delivery at all. Even where farmers acquire fertilizer, Dittoh noted poor soils and seed contribute to low yields for SHFs.
According to Dittoh optimum fertilizer use can only work if the soil problem is addressed. The diverse soils in Africa means “a one size fits all measure can’t work to address soil infertility,” said Dittoh. He also urged private and public sectors to invest heavily in fertilizer factories as only 4 African countries produce their own fertilizer. Where fertilizer subsidies are in use, he urged they be targeted to only SHFs who can’t afford fertilizer.
Dittoh’s views were echoed by Dr. Mariam Mapila a Malawian agricultural researcher who emphasized dialogue between government ministries as key to SHFs accessing fertilizer. According to Dr. Mapila harmonious interaction between ministries benefits SHFs who double as producers and consumers. “Policy makers’ needs to continuously speak to each other,” said Dr Mapila. Through that, Dr Mapila noted, procurement and collecting data on fertilizer amounts in country would be easier.
Speaking on markets Olumuyiwa B. Alaba of Ibandan University in Nigeria urged policy makers to address issues hindering SHFs from selling their produce and competitively. According to Alaba this is only possible if all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain benefit in that symbiotic relationship. Market failure is the biggest hindrance to SHFs progress,” he said.
Water was also noted as a constraint to food production in SSA. According to Reuben Kadigi of Sokoine University water access in SSA is constrained by its cost and nonexistent infrastructure. Though SSA has enough water resources little is done to conserve it when it rains through water harvesting. That according to Kadigi hampers food production when the rains end.
Attendees argued for active adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) process in each of the SSA country. The process was viewed as key to achieving issues outlined the 5 issues outlined in the 5 policy brief launched at the workshop.
By James Karuga