FANRPAN Annual High Level Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue 2010

Agriculture a vital force for development

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1 September 2010
Source: 
Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa Terraviva

Namibia is playing host to the 2010 FANRPAN Regional Food Security Policy Dialogue, where over 200 policymakers, farmers, agricultural product dealers, scientists and non-governmental organisations from across Africa and the world will gather to address African priorities on food security and climate change and its impacts on agricultural development, natural resource management and rural livelihoods.

Food security in Africa is still only an aspiration. With one-quarter of the world’s arable land, Africa produces only 10 per cent of its total global output. More than 265 million people are still chronically hungry, yet Africa is estimated to hold 60 per cent of the world’s remaining uncultivated farmland.

Stagnant agricultural productivity is a constant battle in Africa, exacerbated by limited access to agricultural inputs, to water, to markets and to knowledge. The impacts of climate change add yet another obstacle in front of African farmers who are seeking to sustain themselves and their families. Developing countries stand to bear the brunt of climate change, while being the least resilient to extreme or erratic weather patterns, such as floods, droughts, salinity exposure and unpredictable rainfall.

The potential for agriculture to boost rural livelihoods, reduce poverty and underpin other sectors of the economy is well established. Agriculture is the most important source of livelihood throughout Africa, accounting for more than 70 per cent of total employment. And 65 per cent of that figure is made up of women farmers.

Agriculture must be viewed as a vital force in our global mission to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially since the World Bank has calculated that agricultural growth is at least twice as effective at reducing poverty than growth originating in any other sector.

And Africa’s agricultural sector has the potential not only to feed its own people but to become the breadbasket of the world. It is estiamted that Africa produces only 10 per cent of the world’s crops despite representing roughly 25 per cent of land under cultivation. Africa also has 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable with the potential for African yields to grow in value more than three-fold by the year 2030, from $280 billion today to $880 billion.

To achieve this, agricultural tools and knowledge must be made accessible to farmers to increase their yields and adapt to new climate scenarios. Africa needs its own agricultural revolution built on technology and innovation, and facilitated by a conducive policy environment aligned with the needs of African farmers.

Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is the CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network