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