This Water meeting brought together 700 dignitaries from all over the world, 40 Ministers from different African Countries, The Prince of Orange, Willem Alexander Ferdinand and Hon. Emmanuel Trevor, who represented President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa. Trevor pulled three memorable lines while tackling water and energy security issues on the continent in his premier address to the meeting; “Energy has alternatives while water has none”, “Water is Life and Sanitation is dignity” and “without water, there is no Agriculture.” The foregoing lines, I believe, are principle benchmarks that ongoing global debates and national plans on energy, water and food security should be anchored.
My speech in the forum was meant to flag farmers issues on the Agenda, and echo areas that must be financed if farmers have to continue feeding the bulging population on the Continent (Africa’s population growth is at 2.4 percent per annum, meaning that every day, there are more mouths to feed on the continent every year.)
Agriculture, which produces multiple services from food, feed, fuel and fibre, is essentially dependant on water as one of its key strategic resources. Yet water availability and access, like never before is under severe stress due to climate change and other man-made environmental degradation tendencies on the continent. It should be noted that 95% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa is grown under rain fed agriculture (call it nature based) and on average, 7% of Sub-Sahara Africans are employed by agriculture. A new recognition viewed through initiatives on the continent that aim at financing the agriculture sector like the Maputo Declaration and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) where many African Countries committed to the principle of agriculture-led growth as a main strategy though in practice is still a feigned standpoint in many African countries.
The fundamental role of agriculture is to ensure food security for consumers and secure livelihoods for producers. Therefore, African Governments and concessional capital agencies like the African Development Bank must invest in enabling agriculture infrastructure. For example, Without roads and basic infrastructure; farmers cannot receive basic inputs or get their products to market. Without secure land tenure and modern equipment for farm production and processing, yields will continue to be low and post-harvest losses high. Without a firm national, regional and international commitment to agricultural development and a stable and conducive policy environment in which it can take place, investment will not come. Therefore, the following areas must be financed;
Enhancing production and productivity
To contain food and energy insecurity, factor productivity (land, labour, and capital) will have to be raised substantially. To this end, Financing should be directed towards eight core areas; Technology Development/Research; Advisory Services and Technology Delivery; Disease, Pest and Vector Control; Sustainable Management of Land and Water Resources; Water for Agricultural Production ( financing should be scaled up from current $11 billion to $100 billion); Development and Promotion of Labour Saving Technologies including Appropriate Mechanization; Improved Access to High Quality Inputs and Stocking Materials; and Accelerated Production of Selected Strategic Enterprises (including food security crops).
Improving access to and sustainability of markets
Productivity growth without significant improvements in marketing is an opportunity lost. Farmers on the continent need to be assisted to participate in higher value-added market chains than they can at present. Therefore Africa must finance major public works like - roads, railways, and telecommunications. To harness Markets, new investments must be directed towards to three core areas, Increased Value-addition in Agriculture, with the emphasizing Strategic Commodities, involving the promotion of Public Private Partnerships (out grower models, the warehouse receipt system, contract farming), and assistance with improving post harvest handling, storage, rural market infrastructure; Increased capacity of farmers’ organizations to build up skills in management, entrepreneurship, and group dynamics so they can engage in higher-level value-chain activities including collective marketing.
Farmer institution development
Farmer institutions are important forums for mobilizing farmers around a common objective, delivery of services as well as policies that support agricultural development. They form key entry points for service delivery to individual households or communities. Farmer organizations play a leading role in technology promotion, market organization and value addition. Yet Majority farmer institutions in Africa are still characterized by low capacity to effectively perform their roles and to demand for delivery of agricultural advisory/extension services. This therefore means that African financing efforts should focus on strengthening the capacity of these institutions to fully participate in the commodity value chain development and combating climate change and ensuring accountability of public resources in Agriculture. Integrated Support to farmer groups is an effective way of realizing improvements in agricultural production and productivity. Since these activities take place through groups, it also means that advisory services, monitoring and accountability would be more effective.
Rewarding farmers for ecosystem services and carbon offsets
Farmers interact with the environment daily and are a center of gravity in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Not only do farmers produce food, feed and fiber, but also a whole range of ecosystem services, including services related to water availability and water quality, directly and indirectly benefiting society and the environment. In order to achieve long-term positive effects, incentives must encourage and enable farmers to continue providing ecosystem services through the adoption of environmentally friendly practices. Stewardship programs offer the necessary positive incentives to encourage farmers to adopt these practices. Farmers should therefore be able to benefit from these programs through which their existing and future activities to enhance water quality and ensure its efficient use are recognized and rewarded. The role of farmers’ organizations in stewardship programs is crucial. Specifically, farmers should be offered financial incentives to invest in renewable energy, farm practices that sequestrate carbon and activities that protect and restore water catchments systems.
Finally, to support the efforts of farmers to improve agriculture and agriculture related water use, public policy makers worldwide need to re-engage with African farmers and other stakeholders to build an integrated approach to agricultural and rural development and farmers' efforts must be harnessed to realize food security in Africa. As governments reaffirmed various commitments, Farmers once more re- committed their inherent DNA to feed the World.
By Morrison Rwakakamba
Chief Executive Officer
Agency for Transformation