Ministers from countries across Africa have agreed to fast-track efforts to transform agricultural efforts into sustainable businesses.
Speaking during a ministerial roundtable meeting at the AGRF in Kigali, Rwanda, the leaders noted that the economic health of the continent lies in the ability to earn from its biggest natural resource – land. Africa has 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, which is roughly 60 percent of the global total.
And with the global population expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, the continent will be taxed to help meet the rising food requirements.
Ethiopia is well on the way to position itself as a global food provider by earmarking agriculture as its most important sector.
“More than 85 percent of our population is involved in agriculture and more than 75 percent of exports are from agriculture. That is why we chose to prioritise agriculture as the backbone of the country,” said Eyasu Abraha Alle, Ethiopia’s minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
For a radical transformation of the sector, Alle says his government is already making available to farmers modern machinery and farm implements, as well as availing extension services to rural areas.
“Subsistence is not sustainable, and that is why we embarked on a growth and transformation strategy that will see shift from being production oriented to a business focus,” said Alle.
Across the continent, in Ghana, the government has made great strides in subsidising farm inputs for farmers, confirmed the country’s minister for food and agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto.
“We have set aside $100m to subsidise fertilisers and improved seeds. Because of this we have seen an increase in harvests, something that is exciting because Ghana has for a long time had one of the lowest productivity levels,” said Akoto.
And like Ethiopia, Ghana too has realised the importance of extension services in improving the quality and quantity of its country’s farm products.
“When I took over as minister early last year, I discovered that we only had 1,600 extension workers across the country of whom 80 percent were due to retire. So, I immediately recruited 1,000 graduates last year and this year I am recruiting 2,700 more,” said Akoto.
Such great investments in agriculture as Ghana’s are expected to pay off and it is now foreseen that the continent’s appeal to world markets will continue to flourish.
“There is potential, because we are now seeing a diversification of exports happening in the agriculture sector,” said Charles Tizeba, Tanzania’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Tanzania.
It was at the same sitting that the African Agricultural Transformation Scorecard (AATS) was presented as a tool to help governments point out the areas that need attention for resurgent agriculture-based economies.
“While it may have scores assigned to different categories, the scorecard is not a ranking system, rather a tool to help leaders and other stakeholders see the areas where change is needed to achieve all goals of the Malabo declaration,” said Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, the Director of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission.
The Malabo Declaration is a pledge made by Heads of State four years ago during a presidential summit in Equatorial Guinea, where they promised to take critical steps to achieve certain agricultural milestones by 2025.