By Jimoh Babatunde with agency reports
Presidents of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo Nwanze, and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Jane Karuku, have called for a continued global push for increased smart investments in Africa’s agriculture, both by governments and the private sector.
After speaking at the Chatham House Food Security 2012 Sustainable Intensification: Miracle or Mirage conference, Nwanze and Karuku addressed a group of international media in London emphasizing 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.
“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,” said Karuku.
Emphasizing the critical role of agriculture to reduce poverty, improve food security, and create a better future for all Africans, Karuku said, “Speaking as a citizen of Africa who was born and brought up on a small farm, I believe that 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.”
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,” said Karuku. “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.
Investments are being made that strengthen agricultural value chains – especially those involving staple foods – and that encourage private sector development and participation. New vibrant private/public partnerships are being created, and international investments are increasingly being aligned with Africa’s priorities.