Photo taken on Nov. 26, 2015 shows a truck loaded with sacks of agricultural produce along the muddy Sironko-Mbale road at Bugusege trading centre, eastern Uganda. As a country where over 80% of the population relies on agriculture, the Uganda government is prioritizing growth of infrastructure to economically viable areas to ease access to the markets. (Xinhua/Daniel Edyegu)
Photo taken on Nov. 26, 2015 shows a truck loaded with sacks of agricultural produce along the muddy Sironko-Mbale road at Bugusege trading centre, eastern Uganda. As a country where over 80% of the population relies on agriculture, the Uganda government is prioritizing growth of infrastructure to economically viable areas to ease access to the markets. (Xinhua/Daniel Edyegu)

Experts have called on African countries to embrace agriculture to help boost food production and reduce malnutrition levels in the continent.

In a new report released Tuesday by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the experts said nations that have implemented the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) have posted higher agriculture productivity and stronger GDP growth as well as sharper declines in malnutrition compared to countries that have not adopted the program.

“The last ten years have made a strong case for agriculture as the surest path to producing sustainable economic growth that is felt in all sectors of society – and particularly among poor Africans,” said AGRA President Agnes Kalibata during the launch of the report in Nairobi.

“The track record is far from perfect. Many governments face significant budget constraints and far too many farming families continue to lack basic inputs, like improved seeds or fertilizers. But the evidence is clear. When we invest in our farmers and in the all the things they need to succeed, good things happen across the economy,” she said.
The report says a decade of intense domestic attention to farmers and food production has generated “the most successful development effort” in African history, with countries that made the biggest investments rewarded with sizeable jumps in both farm productivity and overall economic performance.

It finds that “after decades of stagnation, much of Africa has enjoyed sustained agriculture productivity growth since 2005, and as a result, poverty rates have declined in places like Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

The report notes that agriculture has had its biggest impact in countries that moved quickly to embrace the African Union’s CAADP, which was created in 2003.
A key component of CAADP was its call for African governments to allocate 10 percent of national budgets to agriculture and to aim for six percent annual growth in the sector.
The AGRA report notes that even if they didn’t hit the 10 percent targets, early adopters of the CAADP goals have seen productivity on existing farmlands rise by 5.9 to 6.7 percent per year.

This boost in turn helped spur a 4.3 percent average annual increase in overall GDP. Those later to the game achieved anywhere from a 3 to 5.7 percent growth in farm productivity and a 2.4 to 3.5 percent increase in GDP.

“It’s clear that with agriculture now back at the top of Africa’s development agenda, the foundations have been laid for a renaissance in African agriculture that could quickly deliver benefits to the broader economy,” said David Ameyaw, one of the report’s lead authors who is head of Monitoring and Evaluation for AGRA.
Meanwhile, countries that sat on the sidelines saw farm productivity rise by less than 3 percent and GDP rise by only 2.2 percent.
The trend is similar for declines in malnutrition, with countries that have embraced the CAADP process experiencing annual declines ranging from 2.4 to 5.7 percent, while those who have not averages only a 1.2 percent decline.

Ameyaw said the report found evidence that many farmers are “gaining more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilizers they use, and in the markets available to purchase their produce.”

The report points out that Africa remains “the world’s most food insecure continent, with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, high rates of malnutrition and a worsening of food trade balance.”

According to the report, broad-based agricultural growth is going to generate long-term employment and wealth; the industry must grow beyond what happens in the fields.
Farming remains a key source of income for 60 to 65 percent of the labour force in sub-Saharan Africa and will continue to be a major source of employment for most countries for a decade or more, particularly for poor Africans.

Realizing the promise of African agriculture will not be cheap. It could require 315 billion U.S. dollars to 400 billion dollars over the next ten years in public and private sector investments in all aspects of food production, processing, marketing and transport.

However, AGRA said investments allocated to agricultural research and extension services have fallen precisely when they are needed most.

“At a time when climate change is producing intense demand for crop varieties and other innovations that can help farmers adapt, investments are not keeping up,” notes the report. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/News Ghana

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