By JIMOH BABATUNDE, Maputo, Mozambique
The President of the Alliance for Green revolution in Africa (AGRA), Jane Karuku, has said that for Africa to be able to feed itself and for its farm produce to be competitive in international market there is need to use both organic and inorganic fertilizer.
Speaking ahead of the opening ceremony of the African Green Revolution Forum here in Maputo Tuesday, Karuku said AGRA believes in generating homegrown solutions to Africa´s food security challenges through building capacity across the whole agricultural value chain.
Karuku explained that the usage of fertilizer in Africa is so low that there is need to accept that we must use fertilizer to grow productivity and that African farmers must be brave enough to break the circle by using both organic and inorganic fertilizer.
“Africa’s soils are in trouble. Continuous farming without replenishing soil nutrients has depleted three-quarters of farmland. Without access to fertilizers and organic matter in adequate amounts, farmers’ yields have long stagnated. Thus, restoring soil fertility will allow Africa’s smallholder farmers to grow more food on existing farmland and to protect a vital natural resource.”
AGRA funded program in the area of fertilizer usage, according to her, is environmentally sustainable and economically affordable to the hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers who stand to benefit.
She said the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) of AGRA has provided higher-yielding seeds farmers need to not only avoid food crisis but also better their own lives and those of their children.
“ Farmers’ productivity in Africa is limited by the fact that farmers have a limited choice of improved variety of seed. Most farmers plant varieties that were released more than 30 years ago or land races (farmer collection seeds).
“To increase yields in Africa, PASS established effective breeding and seed systems across the continent. Farmers are already beginning to benefit from the power of better seed. PASS supports country-level crop breeding teams who work closely with farmers to develop new varieties.
“PASS then funds and trains local entrepreneurs who establish and grow private, independent seed companies’ to produce and distribute the seed.
Karuku noted that majority of farmers who accessed the new seed doubled their produce, adding that the seeds are now being distributed through a network of local, rural enterprises dealing in agricultural inputs – a mode which holds the promise of sustainability.
“To ensure that research continues over the long-term on African crops and maintains a steady pipeline of new varieties.“
She added that one of the approaches AGRA keenly undertook was to conduct training sessions with young African scientists across Africa through innovative academic collaborations that effectively embody North-South, and South- South cooperation.
Speaking on the forum that opens Wednesday, Karuku said it will be used to showcase all the good things happening in the agricultural sector in the continent.
“We need to set up the agenda as nobody will help Africa do that if we as Africans do not do help ourselves. We are getting lot of investment in the sector by African governments.”
While thanking the Mozambican government for hosting the forum, AGRA President explained that the forum will review the 2003 Maputo Declaration that asked African governments to dedicate 10% of their annual budget to agriculture.
“In 2003 African heads of state met in Mozambique and pledged to allocate 10 per cent of their national budget to agriculture by 2008. To date, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal have exceeded this target and most countries have made significant progress towards this goal.