Many African coun­tries ne­glect the agri­cul­ture sec­tor be­cause the base of their po­lit­i­cal sup­port is ur­ban.”

The East African - - BUSI­NESS -

shows that de­spite close to 70 per cent of the con­ti­nent's pop­u­la­tion be­ing in­volved in agri­cul­ture as small­holder farm­ers work­ing on parcels of land that are, on av­er­age, less than two hectares, there has been min­i­mal po­lit­i­cal will to sup­port them.

“There is hardly any dis­agree­ment about the cru­cial role of po­lit­i­cal will for driv­ing agri­cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion. In fact, slow progress has of­ten been at­trib­uted to a lack of po­lit­i­cal will,” notes the re­port.

It adds that to achieve a suc­cess­ful agri­cul­tural trans­for­ma­tion, it is not only essential for gov­ern­ments to ad­dress mar­ket fail­ures and the gov­er­nance chal­lenges but also sus­tain po­lit­i­cal will over time.

The fail­ure by gov­ern­ments to spear­head the sec­tor's growth con­tin­ues to ex­pose the con­ti­nent to threats of food in­se­cu­rity, a sit­u­a­tion that is bound to get se­vere due to cli­mate change and un­pre­dictable weather pat­terns.

This is hap­pen­ing at a time when de­mand for food con­tin­ues to grow strongly, and is pro­jected to more than dou­ble by 2050.

Be­sides, na­tional di­ets are shift­ing away from food sta­ples like grains to hor­ti­cul­tural and live­stock prod­ucts, and pro­cessed and pre-cooked foods, all of which add value within the agri­food sys­tem. This has re­sulted in im­ports of raw and pro­cessed foods in­creas­ing to about $35 bil­lion per year, a fig­ure es­ti­mated to rise to about $110 bil­lion by 2025.

The fact that the majority of gov­ern­ments lack the po­lit­i­cal will to trans­form the agri­cul­ture sec­tor is ev­i­dent con­sid­er­ing that only a few coun­tries have im­ple­mented the African Union's Com­pre­hen­sive Africa Agri­cul­ture Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (CAADP), which com­mits sig­na­to­ries to al­lo­cate 10 per cent of an­nual bud­gets to the sec­tor.

Only Malawi, Ethiopia, Niger, Mali and Burk­ina Faso have im­ple­mented the pro­gramme. On this, East African coun­tries are per­form­ing poorly, with all al­lo­cat­ing less than six per cent of their an­nual bud­gets to agri­cul­ture.

The sit­u­a­tion in Africa com­pares badly with other re­gions, par­tic­u­larly Asia, where gov­ern­ments in­vested 15 to 20 per cent at the time of their Green Rev­o­lu­tions.

“Cen­tral to ac­cel­er­at­ing ag- Africa Agri­cul­ture Sta­tus Re­port 2018 ri­cul­tural growth is im­prov­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the smallscale com­mer­cial farmer above sub­sis­tence lev­els,” notes the re­port by the Al­liance for a Green Rev­o­lu­tion in Africa. It adds that in­stead of em­pow­er­ing farm­ers and com­mit­ting re­sources to re­search and devel­op­ment, most gov­ern­ments pre­fer to spend a con­sid­er­able share of their agri­cul­tural bud­get on subsidies, which are of­ten used as po­lit­i­cal tools for buy­ing votes.

Spear­head­ing a shift

The re­port ex­tols the im­por­tance of gov­ern­ments spear­head­ing a shift of agri­cul­ture from largely sub­sis­tence farm­ing, of­ten in­volv­ing un­der­util­i­sa­tion of land and labour on the larger farms, to com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture with the dom­i­nant small-scale com­mer­cial farms pro­duc­ing a grow­ing proportion of their crops for sale.

In Africa, Ethiopia is a shin­ing star in driv­ing the growth of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, hav­ing con­sis­tently ex­ceeded the CAADP tar­get of six per cent an­nual growth for the past 25 years. The gov­ern­ment made CAADP the core of its agri­cul­tural plan.

Rwanda is also a model af­ter mar­shalling po­lit­i­cal sup­port for agri­cul­ture and then in­te­grat­ing de­tailed ac­tion plans within broader eco­nomic devel­op­ment strate­gies. This has helped lift more than one mil­lion Rwan­dans out of ex­treme poverty within a rel­a­tively short pe­riod.

Ghana has also achieved re­mark­able suc­cesses in trans­form­ing its agri­cul­tural sec­tor. But other coun­tries on the con­ti­nent have failed on most pa­ram­e­ters on po­lit­i­cal will.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the com­po­nents that de­fine po­lit­i­cal will range from gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives, devel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of a na­tional plan, choice of poli­cies and programmes, to mo­bil­i­sa­tion of stake­hold­ers and pub­lic com­mit­ment and al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources.

Oth­ers are in­vest­ments and re­forms to strengthen im­ple­men­ta­tion ca­pac­ity, ap­pli­ca­tion of cred­i­ble sanc­tions, con­ti­nu­ity of ef­fort and learn­ing and adap­ta­tion.

“Many African coun­tries ne­glect the agri­cul­ture sec­tor in their devel­op­ment plan­ning. This is be­cause the base of their po­lit­i­cal sup­port is ur­ban,” notes the re­port.

Trag­i­cally, gov­ern­ments have failed to spear­head growth of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor de­spite the fact that it re­mains a crit­i­cal player in eco­nomic growth, job cre­ation and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

The re­port con­tends that when agri­cul­ture grows at the man­dated rate of six per cent per year, rather than the norm with­out gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions of three per cent, net farm in­comes grow at nearly six per cent. This stim­u­lates rapid growth in em­ploy­ment and in­comes in the ru­ral non-farm sec­tor.

It adds that African coun­tries can learn from China's agri­cul­ture trans­for­ma­tion pro­gramme which is cred­ited with driv­ing down ru­ral poverty from 53 per cent in 1981 to eight per cent in 2001. The same is true for Viet­nam, where ru­ral poverty de­clined from 56 per cent in 1986 to eight per cent cur­rently.

Pic­ture: File

Farm­ers in Rwanda’s Mu­sanze Dis­trict. Rwanda is among African mod­els that have mar­shalled po­lit­i­cal sup­port for agri­cul­ture.

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