Africa: Why Agriculture?

[Commentary] – As hundreds of delegates from around the world and Africa descended on Accra, Ghana for the 12th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Meeting (CAADP Partnership Platform) last week, all in the name of agriculture, the words of Kwame Nkrumah who led Ghana to independence from Britain in 1957 and served as its first prime minister and president came to mind:

“Something in the nature of an economic revolution is required. Our development has been held back for too long by the colonial-type economy. We need to reorganise entirely, so that each country can specialise in producing the goods and crops for which it is best suited.”

Africa’s Green Revolution has been suspended for far too long, despite its abundance in land, right climate, good soils and all the potential it has to be the food basket of the world. Africa’s agriculture is still faced with major challenges. With a food import bill of more than 30 billion Euros a year, indeed something in the nature of the continent’s (agriculture) economic revolution is required.

Although agriculture is competing with many other needs of the continent’s population, the sector remains the largest source of income and Africa’s biggest opportunity to eliminate poverty and cultivate significant prosperity for its people. At the meeting, the Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (himself a farmer), launched the Africa Food Prize – a clarion call for a generation of bold, innovative individuals and institutions to reach new heights and achieve great things for Africa. Since leaving office, Obasanjo have been involved in various agricultural development projects for which he has raised more the US$10 million.

The Africa Food Prize through the diversity of winners, seeks to signal to the world that smallholder agriculture (the predominant feature of African agriculture) is finally on the path to prosperity on the continent. About 90% of farm holdings for example, in Ghana are less than 2 hectares in size, although there are some large farms and plantations, particularly for rubber, oil palm and coconut and to a lesser extent, rice, maize and pineapples.

The US$100, 000 Prize also aims to celebrate Africans who are taking control of the continent’s agriculture agenda and changing the reality of farming in Africa, from a struggle to survive, to a business that thrives. The Prize will be awarded annually at the African Green Revolution Forum, starting with the 2016 AGRF scheduled for 5-9 September in Nairobi, Kenya.

Agriculture on the continent is standing on the verge of a revolution…only time and effort will determine the shape and intensity of this revolution. Under the theme “Accelerating Implementation of CAADP through Innovative Financing and Renewed Partnerships” – the sector continues to look for the investments and partnerships it can get.

Delegates at the 4-day meeting also learned about investments from The MasterCard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (US$10, 6 million) and Standard Bank of South Africa (US$100 million) about entrepreneurial and innovative agricultural support projects on the continent.

The Intsika Team wishes to thank NEPAD and CAADP for the opportunity to be part of the 2016 event, as the official media partner, where we captured proceedings on film and interviewed various high-profile individuals on the future of sector. If you wish to order a DVD from us (free of charge), please email Malixole Gwatyu at: malixole@agrimediasa.org

 

Author: Intsika

Gwatyu is a former editor of Farming SA and parliamentary reporter for Landbouweekblad (the leading agricultural publication in South Africa). He has more than ten years of media experience, most of which are in the agricultural sector. He completed several local and international media courses, including a media management course from the University of Stellenbosch, 3-year National Diploma in Languages (CPUT) and a fellowship in entrepreneurship on agricultural communication at the Oklahoma State University in 2014. He continues to be involved in agricultural media and communication activities in South Africa and the continent.

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