Africa: Poverty, hunger attributed to decline in agriculture

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By Salimat Garba

Dr Kanayo Nwanze, the President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has identified the decline in agriculture as the cause of hunger and poverty in Africa which he described as waste of human lives.

Nwanze stated this when he spoke at the opening of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) with an estimated 1200 participants from across Africa in Accra .

He stressed that waste of human lives and potentialities through hunger and extreme poverty were not only tragic but also a disgrace to the continent.

According to him, growth in agriculture equates to a reduction in poverty, adding that in the sub-Saharan region , growth generated by agriculture is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth in any other sector.

The IFAD president said there has been a tremendous decline in Africa’s agricultural sector in the past three decades because of lack of investment and inadequate research and development.

“Today, it seems that while much of the world moves forward, Africa is moving backward. Over the past three decades, agricultural productivity in Africa has been stagnant or declining because of years of under investment.

“Is there any wonder then that there is so much poverty and hunger on our continent, the resulting waste in human lives and potentialities is not only tragic but it is a disgrace because there is simply no reason for it?

Cassava farm

Cassava farm

Nwanze, however, urged the government of each country and international bodies to pay adequate attention to smallholder farmers as they are the key to development in Africa.

“There is a focus on the smallholder farmers by IFAD because they produce 80 to 90 per cent of the food we consume in this continent; they are part of the solution to food sufficiency and security in Africa.

“They are businessmen and women; they are not waiting for government, they are waiting for economic opportunities to grow their businesses.

“Smallholder holds the key to Africa’s development. Successful small farms can provide a variety of jobs, decent income and food security,” he said .

As the president commended the Forum for Agricultural Development in Africa (FARA) for bringing together African countries to share their experiences and address their challenges in order to boost productivity, he pointed that the forum’s aim would be defeated if they was no consistent research and development in the continent, Nwanze noted.

“The development of a science agenda for agriculture in Africa under the auspices of FARA is an important step on the road to a strong agricultural sector.

“It is all the more important because it is Africa-owned and Africa-led. It holds the promise for  African farmers and citizens reaping the benefits of African research.

“But it will only translate into stronger nations and better lives for the people of Africa if it is supported by coherent investment in agriculture  and the development of the continent.

“One-third of all food ends up as waste, 57 per cent of the potential edible crops harvested is not available for consumption and 90 per cent of the world soya bean production is consumed by animals instead of humans.

“Our continent is not immune to waste. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 20 to 40 per cent of the crops produced deteriorate after harvest because they cannot be safely stored.

“Consider the post-harvest grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa which averages about  4billionUSD every year. “This food  should meet the nutritional needs of about 50 million people; losses on this scale are scandalous particularly on a continent where millions go hungry.”

Nwanze advised Africa to make sure that it did not put agriculture and development into separate silos as it looked forward to the post-2015 development agenda.

In his remarks, the Vice President of Ghana, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur urged IFAD to increase its assistance to rural communities to create other forms of employment to absorb labour released from farming.

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