Wednesday, July 21, 2010

African agriculture on the go

Busani Bafana, a journalist from Zimbabwe, reflects on day three of FARAweek.

African agriculture has a bright future, but sustained investments in innovation and technology adoption are critical to its success.

Generally speaking, things are getting better in Africa. The continent’s mobile phone revolution has transformed the speed and ways in which millions of Africans communicate and access information. African governments are investing in agriculture and innovation as part of a new effort drive the continent’s development. These are seen by many as positive developments. But the important task of actually improving farm productivity on the ground requires a radical paradigm shift.

"We need to change our mindset to one that exploits our strengths to address the problems we have,” noted Monty Jones, FARA Executive Director. “The world wants access to African markets. The world wants access to our land and natural resources. That is a big strength for Africa," said Dr. Monty Jones of FARA.

During a press briefing, representatives of FARA, the New Programme for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Union Commission pointed to signs that African agriculture is moving in the right direction. Many African countries have notched 5 percent sustained growth. Several African countries are currently on track to meet the MDGs, with the exception of HIV/AIDS, which remains to be a challenge.

With 60 percent of the world’s remaining uncultivated land, Africa is in a unique position to become a key player in feeding the world. But first, Africa must focus on ensuring the fullness of her own belly. But low investments in infrastructure, market development and value addition, remain as tremendous obstacles to blooming Africa's agriculture.

Martin Bwalya of CAADP explained the importance of the initiative in driving the agriculture agenda in Africa. CAADP was designed to help African countries achieve six percent annual growth in agriculture by allocating at least 10 percent of their budgets for agricultural productivity. So far, only 19 of 53 countries have signed their CAADP compacts.

The CAADP agenda calls for a new way of doing business. It provides a frameword for us to scale up African successes. This includes ensuring that new technologies and innovations are reaching farmers.

Through their endorsement of the CAADP processes, African governments have demonstrated the political will to support the development of agriculture, what is left is transforming that will into programmes for innovation and technology adoption.

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