“African governments must adequately and sustainably fund their National Agricultural Policy Research Institutes and National Agricultural Research Centers to enable them effectively and sustainably generate scientific evidence based research and agricultural innovations that are homegrown to contribute to food security and development through trade and export of food surplus,” says Mr. Chance Kabaghe, Chairperson of Regional Network Of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI), a network of National Agricultural Policy Research Institutes operating in Eastern and Southern Africa region.
Todays’ global food systems are evolving so fast. National agricultural institutions must be satisfactorily funded to empower them help lift millions of farmers out of poverty. Agriculture is projected to remain the single source of major employment in the continent, which means that, right agricultural development strategies can indeed transform the lives of African farmers from poor rural to semi- industrialized middle income to middle class.
African governments and leading private sector players must through public-private partnerships initiate and implement national agriculture, food security, and export investment plans, accompanied by comprehensive and strategic agricultural support programs such as, input supply, agro-financing, agro- mechanization and marketing.
When small and medium scale farmers are through strategic agricultural interventions enabled to access quality breeds seeds accompanied with appropriate storage facilities and market availability, they are able to double and in some cases triple their production, attain food security and improve their household incomes. The Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) under Global Maize Program of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), for example, have enabled close to four million farmers in thirteen sub-Saharan countries to improve their yields. Another example is Serere Composite 1 & 11, two varieties of pearl millet, that are drought tolerant with fast maturing and high yielding capacity, developed by the National Semi Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) in Uganda which has significantly improved farmers’ income through their contract farming partnerships with beer making and other industries utilizing it in their production processes to produce various finished products.
If more drought tolerant and pest resistant seeds are availed to small scale farmers at affordable prices, farmers’ yields will improve significantly. This will strengthen their cooperatives in terms of being able to raise and sustain production tonnages, to meet the skyrocketing demand of Africa’s cereals, both within and outside African markets.
Adding value to products before export not only fetches more revenue, but also creates more jobs domestically. African governments should therefore establish agribusiness parks and boost power generation volumes in addition to putting in place agricultural investment stimulation incentives to attract investors in agribusiness value chain processes. As more investors come in, more jobs will be created on all phases of the value chain thus providing a concrete base for uplifting millions of people out of poverty.
The multiplier effect of food security attainment, employment creation and industrialization drive through forward linkages calls for the agricultural sector to be given top priority in terms of funding.
By Moses Hategeka
The author is a Ugandan based Independent Governance Researcher, Public Affairs Analyst, and Writer.