How science can un­lock Africa’s agri po­ten­tial

With the re­lent­less in­crease in world pop­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly in Africa, food pro­duc­tion has be­come the sub­ject of much at­ten­tion. This provides a golden op­por­tu­nity for science and skills trans­fer to po­si­tion Africa as the so­lu­tion to the food se­cu­rity

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Contents - FW

We are told that by 2050 there will be nine bil­lion hu­man be­ings to feed, and a quar­ter of them will live in Africa. This means we have a mere 32 years in which to dou­ble food pro­duc­tion in gen­eral, and pro­tein (mainly meat) pro­duc­tion in par­tic­u­lar.

Faced with this im­mov­able tar­get, food se­cu­rity and food pro­duc­tion have been ma­jor sci­en­tific and po­lit­i­cal top­ics of dis­cus­sion and de­bate for some time now. The land avail­able for food pro­duc­tion is fi­nite, there­fore the only pos­si­ble so­lu­tions are to in­crease pro­duc­tion on land that is cur­rently un­der­used, and to em­ploy science and tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity of farm­ing en­ter­prises.

In both th­ese so­lu­tions, Africa takes cen­tre stage. It is the only con­ti­nent suited to com­mer­cial agri­cul­ture with un­der­utilised land. Nei­ther Europe nor North Amer­ica has spare land avail­able.

pro­duc­ing more food on less land

Over the last 40 years, pre­ci­sion farm­ing, ad­vanced ge­net­ics, feed­ing sys­tems, an­i­mal health con­trols and other tech­nolo­gies have en­abled in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries to re­duce their overall land re­quire­ment for live­stock by 20% while dou­bling meat pro­duc­tion. Only in Africa is there room for a mas­sive in­crease in the dif­fer­ence science can make to pro­duc­tion. What this means for us here at the south­ern tip of Africa is op­por­tu­nity! Op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to food se­cu­rity and the re­sul­tant fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of mil­lions of fam­i­lies on the con­ti­nent.

Ever since he took of­fice in Fe­bru­ary this year, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa has placed agri­cul­ture firmly on his agenda. The ob­vi­ous and loud­est as­pect has been, and con­tin­ues to be, land re­form and how ex­pro­pri­a­tion without com­pen­sa­tion will play out in prac­tice.

But of equal im­por­tance, at least from where I stand as a pro­fes­sional and busi­ness­man in­volved in agri­cul­ture, are his ut­ter­ances, ac­tions and pol­icy de­ci­sions re­lated to the sec­tor.

In just the past two months, agri­cul­ture fea­tured at three of the most high­pro­file events in South Africa. In Septem­ber, with the an­nounce­ment of the eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age, the sec­tor was sin­gled out as a pri­or­ity area. The pres­i­dent said in­vest­ment would be chan­nelled to black com­mer­cial farm­ers to in­crease their en­try into food value chains through ac­cess to in­fra­struc­ture such as abat­toirs and feed­lots.

“The agri­cul­ture sec­tor has mas­sive po­ten­tial for job cre­ation in the im­me­di­ate and long term,” he said.

This view was re­it­er­ated at both the Jobs Sum­mit and the In­vest­ment Con­fer­ence that took place in Oc­to­ber. At the lat­ter, Ramaphosa said that land re­form was needed not only to re­dress a his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tice but to un­lock the eco­nomic po­ten­tial of the coun­try’s land.

‘May your cow calVE’

For the first time, we have a South African head of state who un­der­stands agri­cul­ture and the live­stock and game in­dus­tries. More than this, he ap­pre­ci­ates what he calls in his book, Cat­tle of the Ages, the ‘mir­a­cle of science’, which is the con­tri­bu­tion that vet­eri­nary science is mak­ing and can still make to the fu­ture of the coun­try. All play­ers in the an­i­mal health in­dus­try should strengthen the pres­i­dent’s hand by bring­ing our science A-game to the ta­ble. In ad­di­tion, we must in­vest in real and mean­ing­ful skills and knowl­edge trans­fer that will put our con­ti­nent’s mil­lions of small-scale farm­ers in charge of their own des­tinies, po­si­tion­ing them as a cor­ner­stone of the global food se­cu­rity project. We all know that science works, and we have con­tin­ued to de­velop reme­dies for Africa’s spe­cific needs.

Our in­dus­try partners and peers should heed Ramaphosa’s “thuma mina” (send me) call and add our own to it: “maz’enet­hole” (may your cow calve). To­gether, we can turn Africa’s agri­cul­tural po­ten­tial into the kind of pro­duc­tion that can and should play a role in global food se­cu­rity.

Eight years ago, Afrivet, through its BBBEE sub­sidiary Afrivet Train­ing Ser­vices, en­tered into a joint ven­ture with the On­der­stepoort Fac­ulty of Vet­eri­nary Science of the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria to spon­sor the world’s first chair in Pri­mary An­i­mal Health Care.

The joint ven­ture has al­ready pro­duced a com­pre­hen­sive and steadily grow­ing body of knowl­edge for stu­dents, vet­eri­nary pro­fes­sion­als, com­mer­cial farm­ers and emerg­ing stock own­ers. It is also in­volved in com­mu­nity-based out­reach and skills trans­fer pro­grammes that em­power com­mu­nal stock own­ers to view and man­age their herds as a store of com­mer­cial value.

– Roelof Bezuiden­hout

Ever since he took of­fice in Fe bru­ary, Ramaphosa has placed agri­cul­ture firmly on his agenda

Farmer’s Weekly.

The views ex­pressed in our weekly opin­ion piece do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of Email Dr Peter Oberem at [email protected]

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.