Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security
African governments must live up to their commitments to invest at least 10% of the national budgets in agriculture, in order to address the current food crisis and break Africa's present dependency on the whims of the global market.
This must be coupled with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable. Africa must find solutions for increasing agricultural production that are both socially and environmentally sustainable. This was the key message of a public forum held on 2nd July in Nairobi, to coincide with the 13th African Union summit focusing on ‘Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security'.
"Ultimately a nation that cannot feed itself will always be hostage to the interests of those who feed it" said Brian Kagoro, ActionAid International's Pan-Africa Policy Manager, "Food security is national security."
He went on to emphasis that "Africa's greatest opportunity to industrialise, to create new jobs, lies in agriculture". Agriculture is the backbone of the economy in Africa and the mainstay for the large majority of the population. It directly employs 60% of the total labour force and provides the main source of income for 90% of the population.
Panelists respond to discussions
"In Kenya agriculture contributes 51% of the GDP, directly and indirectly" said John Mungai, coordinator of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) at the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, "If agriculture does well, the rest of the economy does well".
"The 10% line should be reached and passed by our African governments." declared Moses Shaha Eastern and Southern Africa Farmers' Federation (ESAFF), going on to say "Who should pressure them? Us - you and I!" The majority of farmers in Africa are smallholder farmers.
Helen Yego, a farmer in the Rift Valley, questioned if there was room for smallholders in the grand 2030 vision recently publicised by the Kenyan government. "Does it mean we are going to be ploughed out to make way for highly mechanised agriculture?"
"Africa's small scale farmers must empower themselves" urged Shaha. "They are Africa's main line of defence in ensuring food security"
Women provide 60-80% of the labour used in Africa to produce food both for household consumption and for sale. Yego highlighted the need for policies to support women farmers efforts to put food on the table for their families. "We know we must diversify and grow a safety net of traditional crops like millet, sorghum, pumpkin and indigenous vegetables" she said, "But the policies to support this are nowhere."
Nancy Abisai, Programme Coordinator for Advocacy of Shelter Forum welcomed the passing of the National Land Policy by the Kenyan cabinet. "Equitable and sustainable access to land and natural resources is the first step in addressing agricultural productivity" she said.
As a result of the food price crisis in 2008, 24 million more Africans are now living with constant hunger. The number of people suffering permanent damage resulting from early childhood malnutrition rose by 44 million. The financial crisis is likely to further exacerbate this growth. Research indicates that for every thousand children, a 1% decrease in per capita GDP is linked to between 17-44 more children dying.
Government leaders are meeting in Sirte, Libya from 24 June - 3 July. The forum was convened by five regional civil society organizations: ACORD International, Actionaid International, African Women's Development & Communication Network (FEMNET), Oxfam and World Vision. The forum is intended to be the start of a dialogue.