By JIMOH BABATUNDE, Maputo
Ten years after African leaders made a commitment in Maputo to commit greater funds to develop agriculture and increase food security on the continent, over 150 leading figures and experts in the sector are back there to remind leaders of the critical importance of that commitment and their continued support to agriculture.
This time around they are in Maputo courtesy of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and partner organisations for this year´s edition of The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which opened today.
Speaking at the opening of the three day event, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union, said “Ten years ago, African leaders made a commitment here in Maputo to commit greater funds to develop agriculture and increase food security on the continent. We must use this Forum to remind leaders of the critical importance of that commitment and their continued support to agriculture.
“The African Union welcomes this timely discussion around strengthening the role of public-private partnerships within the framework of the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program. 2014 has been declared by the African Union as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security. It will be the year in which heads of state will renew their commitments to CAADP.”
Rhoda Peace said Africa has made some appreciable progress with the implementation of CAADP as many AU member states increasingly placing agriculture high on their agenda, “a number of states are allocating additional resources to critical investment to priorities that are able to bring better returns to their investments.”
She quickly added that in spite of the investment, there are still fresh challenges relating to food security; Rhoda Peace gave example of cereal yields in Africa which average only 1.2 tons per hectare compared to over 3tons per hectare for Asia and Latin America and about 5.5 tons per hectare for the European unions.
Rhoda Peace said as a result, Africa´s dependence on food import has risen from about 12% in 2000 to about 18% in 2010 for crops and from 4% to 8% for meat during the same period. “Africa is spending $40-50billion annually on imports of agricultural products, so losing foreign exchange and jobs.”
While noting that Africa has tremendous potential to turn around the picture, she said they will want to match the growth witnessed in the steady economic growth within the continent in the last five years with food security…
Rhoda Peace explained that having taken stocks of agriculture performance and CAADP in the last ten years, “we have come up with the next ten years ‘vision as contained in what we call “ Sustaining the CCADP Momentum.”
Strive Masiyiwa, Vice Chair of AGRA and Founder of Econet Wireless, says: “Across Africa, farmers and small agri-businesses struggle to access the finance to invest in new seeds, fertiliser or equipment.
The African Green Revolution Forum is an opportunity for everyone involved to work together to identify inclusive investment models that can drive growth and develop agriculture into a successful business. African farmers and African SMEs have shown time and time again that if we provide them with the opportunity, they will seize it with both hands.”
Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and CEO of Yara and Chairman of the Yara Prize Committee; says: “If we want to accelerate investment in agriculture, boost crop yields and help farmers access markets, everybody involved in agriculture in Africa needs to work together. Our continued support of the AGRF is based on our belief that governments, the private sector, farmers and international partners need to share best practice, build capacity and scale up models that work.
The progress achieved over the last decade shows us that now, more than ever, the future of Africa’s food security rests on the success of dialogue, knowledge-sharing and partnerships.”