By Jimoh Babatunde, with agency report
With over 70 percent of Africans engaged in Agriculture, it is believed the continent has the capacity to not only feed its people but also help create a secure global food system.

But the recent images from the horn of Africa have called into question the ability of the continent to feed itself, not to talk of helping to meet the needs of the hungry across the world.

So, one cannot but agree with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) when it said there is no better time than now to endeavour to raise agricultural production and productivity in Africa, given the rising food prices in the global markets.

Dr. Namanga Ngongi, AGRA President, while declaring open the AGRA dialogue with Civil Societies in Africa meeting Accra, Ghana, said it is shame that in this day and age, we are still seeing increasing cases of severe hunger among the rural poor and over 265 million undernourished people in Africa.

AGRA is a partnership-based organization that works across the African continent to help millions of small-scale farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. African-led and Africa-based, AGRA develops programs aimed at implementing practical solutions to significantly boost smallholder farm productivity and incomes while safeguarding the environment and promoting equity.

Today, AGRA puts the African smallholder farmer at the heart of the Green Revolution, thereby ensuring that policies and programs are responsive to their needs and ambitions. AGRA is currently working with farmers in about thirteen African countries to double or triple their productivity and thereby dramatically reduce poverty and spur rural economic development.

The meeting with Civil Societies is a confirmation of the body that African Green Revolution requires a broad based coalition of partners who share a common vision and the belief that the continent will succeed in ending hunger in our lifetimes.

AGRA, Nongi said, cannot successfully catalyze a Green Revolution for Africa without active and dedicated involvement of civil society organizations.

“Civil society has an important role to play in ensuring that agriculture meets its strong growth potential and ensures employment creation in Africa. We all need to work together to ensure improved agricultural productivity, reduction in food prices, increase in wage levels and competitiveness in the economy as a whole. “Without investments in agriculture there is a risk that higher food prices could eradicate five to 10 years of poverty reduction efforts.”

The AGRA President said they believe that Agricultural development is the key to poverty reduction in Africa as  there is demonstrated evidence that GDP growth originating in agriculture is two to four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating outside the sector.

While noting that investments in small-holder and subsistence farmers are critical in a pro-poor development agenda, he said “In Sub-Saharan Africa, the agricultural sector employs 65 percent of the labour force and generates 32 per cent of GDP growth.

“Yet this sector is largely overlooked in development policies and programs. While 75 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas in developing countries, only 4 per cent of official development assistance goes to agriculture.”

He explained that neither the government nor any single institution has the means to deliver a green revolution for Africa. “Lasting success requires smart partnerships, committed and sustained African leadership, and increased investments by donors and governments.”

Dr. Namanga Ngongi, whose speech was read by Sylvia Mwichuli, said this is the reason why AGRA’s supports efforts like the AU’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the US-led Feed the Future initiative, which are coordinating funding and actions to support agriculture and African farmers.

“I believe strongly that Africa has the capacity to feed itself and to even be the breadbasket of the rest of the world. What is lacking are clearly policies and adequate investments in the sector.

He urged the participants to remember that smallholder farmers are the foundation of Africa’s development and that farming is the mainstay of most African economies and family incomes.

“Yet, the majority of smallholder farmers are net purchasers of food and living in abject poverty. As CSOs we must advocate for the creation of safety nets and smart subsidies for such groups.”

The Head, Policy and Partnership Unit of AGRA, Augustine Langyinto  added that  the unprecedented demand from the African public that a Green Revolution is essential for Africa’s future cannot be achieved without the support of the CSOs.

“AGRA cannot generate such public support alone. Our success depends on the strong involvement of civil society organizations in advocating for change, as well as their help in preparing a wide range of stakeholders for the changes that are needed.

“We are thus reaching out to CSOs– many of which are represented in this room today – with renewed vigor. AGRA’s leadership realizes that your voices and ideas, and those of other civil society organizations, must be reflected in our work.”

Langyinto added “We believe that a vibrant civil society sector is essential to effective outreach, advocacy, and knowledge transfer. You can and do play a critical role in nurturing positive relationships with community leaders. You are close to the people and therefore are in touch with and respond to public beliefs and attitudes.”

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