“African countries should invest in the agricultural sector and put in place market and production incentives to stimulate agricultural production, if they are to attain rural transformation, and lift their people from poverty,” says Bernard Bashaasha, an Associate Professor and agricultural expert, from Makerere University.
Africa is richly endowed with renewable and nonrenewable natural resources that can (if well utilized in a stable micro and macroeconomic environment) be used to effectively lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
In Northern part of Ethiopia, Northern Kenya, Somalia, Karamoja region of Uganda, Eritrea and Nigeria’s Delta and northern region, among others, millions of children are suffering from kwashakor and other diseases emanating from poor feeding. In Uganda, for example, 17.7 million people are food insecure. Let us not forget that agriculture is a key sector in Africa, which significantly contributes about 40 percent, to the overall continental GDP, and employs about 80 percent of the continent’s citizens.
Travelling across kingdom communities in Africa, one will witness squares miles of lands unutilized, simply because, they belong to the king or kingdom. African countries should urgently revise their land laws and design agricultural transformation oriented approaches. These approaches ought to clearly define how the land should be owned, utilized, in which capacity, for what purpose and in which time frame.
Organic food stuffs, are currently on high demand globally, due to their health benefits to the human body. In North America, Europe, Asia and South America, organic food products, are priced higher than the processed ones. African countries, should strike a balance between chemical agriculture and organic agriculture with a view to feeding this market.
Planting improved seed varieties greatly makes farmers to harvest more from their farms, besides enabling them to become food secure and improve their household incomes. African countries must establish and spread seed production centers to enable farmers access improved seed varieties at a fair price.
Sustainable production of seed varieties, will only be possible by building the capacity of agricultural researchers engaged in researching about various crops like rice, wheat, cassava, banana, maize, wheat, among others. There should also, be institutional building of soil scientists. African countries must, urgently fund their agricultural researchers and ensure that the researched information is always timely disseminated to farmers. The agricultural extension worker – farmer ratio which stands at 1:1,000, in most African countries needs reduction.
Some farmers have large chunks of land that they are not effectively utilizing for lack of machines like tractors. Establishing an agricultural development banks dedicated to advancing interest free loans to farmers will enable them acquire such machines. Farmers will also acquire technologies that overcome post-harvest losses and set up modern storage facilities. Wastage makes farmers to lose 40 percent of the perishable goods, 20-30 percent of semi perishable goods, and 5-15 percent of non-perishable goods.
Funding the establishment and use of low cost and large scale irrigation systems will make farmers to stop depending on rain-fed agriculture which is under threat from climate change.
Africa’s agricultural potential is unquestionable. This, coupled with the fact that global food prices are skyrocketing should motivate African countries to invest more in agriculture.
By Moses Hategeka
Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst, and writer.