Africa Must Nurture its Smallholder Farmers

Published on 13th May 2008

The looming food crisis in the world is bad news for Africa. The astronomic rise in food prices is blamed on increasing demand of food in China, high oil prices, bad weather and reduction of farmland available for crucial cereal food production in favour of crops for biofuel production.

In Africa however, freezing of oil prices may not necessarily stop the food crisis as the continent has always experienced this crisis. We must urgently address other factors such as controlled food markets that make it impossible for farmers to access international markets; poor policies that slap high taxes on farm inputs; weak farmer-extension linkages; and trade barriers that hinder farmers from responding to the market stimulus.

Whereas Africa’s leaders have harped on the continent’s farming ‘potential,’ not harnessing this potential has trapped small-holder farmers at subsistence level. However, as Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug puts it: “Africa cannot eat potential.” Africa needs a revolution of ideas, technologies, policies, market access and incentives to help achieve its green revolution.

In this light, The African Executive is proud to be associated with the Pan Africa Workshop on Service Delivery to Small Holder Farmers (May 18 – 21, 2008) that will be hosted by the Inter Region Economic Network and Syngenta Foundation. The workshop will bring together smallholder farmers; agricultural experts; industry players, academia and health experts to lay practical strategies that will transform Africa into an agricultural giant of the 21st Century.

Improving services to small holder farmers will double their productivity, preserve biodiversity, and create rural income thereby playing a catalytic role in ending widespread poverty and hunger. This will ultimately free Africa from dependency on food imports and food aid and allow the continent to meet its Millennium Development Goal on chronic hunger and poverty.

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