Leaders from Africa have promised to accelerate steps towards the sustainability of the continent’s agricultural enterprise.
Speaking at the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), in Kigali, Rwanda, the leaders expressed satisfaction with the efforts made so far in the bid to ensure that Africa remains food-sufficient, while achieving economic success based on its most abundant natural resource – cultivable land.
Africa holds almost 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, which is equivalent to 60 percent of the global total.
Rwanda’s president, His Excellency Paul Kagame, believes that if this land is well utilised, Africa will be in a position to comfortably feed its growing population, estimated to reach two billion by 2030, while leaving surpluses for export.
“We have everything we need to succeed,” said Kagame, while singling out the revitalisation of extension services as urgent in the quest for an agricultural revolution.
“We must start treating farmers as clients. They need the latest skills and services to increase their productivity.”
Sharing Kagame’s vision, Gabon’s Prime Minister, Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet notes that his government has come to the realisation that agriculture can turn around their economy, and is making new investments in the sector.
“We have 15.4 million hectares of arable land, but we only have 450,000 from which products are directly exported. We are lucky to have a great climate, which is good for agriculture and we are now launching projects aimed at reducing the volume of elementary products, while increasing exports,” said Issoze-Ngondet.
Kenya, too, is fortunate to have arable land and a good climate, which Deputy President, William Ruto, hopes to use to grow the country into a stable economy.
“Africa contributes 60 percent of all our export earnings, which we now to plan to increase some more. We intend to raise our income from farming by about $4 billion from four crops in the next five years,” said Ruto.
“To do this, we are going to ensure that fertilisers are targeted so that we avoid the reduction of outputs because of using wrong fertilisers. We are also setting up systems to reduce post-harvest losses and increase value addition investments for what we produce.”
It is in the same way that Ghana plans to grow its agricultural portfolio, according to president His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
“We devised a programme which we call planting for food and jobs, a programme that is anchored on such efforts as supplying quality seeds and fertilisers for farmers, as well as cross-subsidising bank loans,” said Akufo-Addo.
Akufo-Addo, further hopes that every agricultural stakeholder on the continent will work towards boosting the profile of the sector.
“It cannot be right that the continent that has 25 percent of the world’s agricultural land produces 10 percent of the world’s output of food. These are the disconnects in Africa that should give us all cause for concern…these facts tell us that there has been systemically a failure of policy,” he said.
“Until we sit down and work out what we need to do, we should stop blaming other people for our problems. We have to deal with our reality and find solutions for our situations – it has to be our responsibility.”
The AGRF is an annual event that brings together heads of state, entrepreneurs, industry experts and farmers for a dialogue on the state of agriculture in Africa. The Forum, now in its seventh production, has served to keep all stakeholders well engaged and committed to achieving set goals.
“Whatever we say at the AGRF is tracked, and next year we will be telling you about the steps we have made in achieving the promises made in Kigali,” AGRA president, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, said as the event wound up.
This year’s edition closed with the awarding of the African Food Prize to Nigeria-based the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
The $100,000 prize celebrates Africans that are playing a leading role in the continent’s transformative agriculture agenda. IITA, the 2018 winner, has created improved and high-yielding varieties of major African dietary staple crops, whose value now stands at $ 17 billion.