Africa / Agriculture / BecA / Food Security / Trade

Africa is getting serious about food

Working in the maize field in Malawi

Working in a maize field in Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

IRIN, a United Nations humanitarian news service, says Africa should be in a better position to feed itself in another five years.

‘. . . Shortly after Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika became AU [Africa Union] chair in 2010, he announced a plan to make Africa food secure in the next five years.

‘Martin Bwalya, head of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), said the AU’s seven-year roadmap to put the spotlight on farming so as to promote food security and economic growth, and reduce poverty, had been set in motion five years ago.

‘By the end of 2010, the agriculture development plans of 18 African countries had undergone a rigorous independent technical review and were being rolled out. . . .

‘In a document called The African Food Basket, Mutharika spelt out the details of his plan, which requires countries to allocate a substantial portion of their budget to agriculture, provide farming input subsidies, and make available affordable information and communications technology.

‘This would be possible with the help of a new strategic partnership between countries, donors, aid agencies and the private sector.

‘CAADP, initiated in 2003, covers all the main aspects of Mutharika’s plan, including the commitment to devote at least 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture.

‘Under the programme, countries draw up comprehensive investment plans that include the four CAADP pillars: sustainable land and water management; improved market access and integration; increased food supplies and reduced hunger; and research, technology generation and dissemination.

‘“We expect the countries to contribute at least 10 percent of the annual expenditure budget demonstrating local ownership and responsibility . . .”, said Bwalya.

‘He added while development aid financing remained important, it was also crucial that countries consider measures to attract direct private sector financing to agriculture. . . .

‘The AU’s development agency, the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which runs CAADP, helps countries to mobilize funds. . . .

‘A . . . realistic option, Badiane said, would be for countries with the potential to improve food production to produce enough to feed their less productive neighbours. This called for expanding regional trade and investment in transportation, including ports, railways and highways linking countries.

‘AU members have begun to take regional economic integration “seriously”, noted Calestous Juma, professor of international development at Harvard University in his recently released book, The New Harvest.

‘He lists regional markets as one of the three opportunities that could fortify Africa’s food security against the rising threat of climate change.  . . .

‘Regions could become food secure “by capitalizing on the different growing seasons in different countries and making products available in all areas for longer periods of time”, he wrote. Both Mutharika and CAADP emphasize the development of regional markets. . . .

‘In his book Juma lists advances in science and technology as another factor that could propel Africa towards food self-sufficiency, and called for more investment in the creation of regional hubs of research and innovation.

‘Research is being carried out by groups created under NEPAD, such as the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Network (BecANet), which has been leading research on food crops, including banana, teff, cassava, sorghum and sweet potatoes. More investment in networks, especially agriculture-related ones, could produce far-reaching results.

‘Underuse of fertilizers has often been cited as a major cause of low production in Africa. Only four countries—Egypt, Malawi, Mauritius and South Africa—have exceeded the 50 kg per hectare target set by the AU, Mutharika noted in his plan. . . . Mutharika, who promoted the provision of subsidised fertilizer in Malawi, makes a strong case for this approach. . . .

‘Juma sees leaders like Mutharika, who has prioritized food security as the third factor that could set Africa on the path to food security. The Malawian government devotes 16 percent of its national budget to agriculture. . . .

‘If they stayed the course in implementing CAADP, Badiane said in five years a large number of African countries, if not food secure, would be in a much better position to feed themselves.’

Read the whole IRIN article: Africa: Serious about food, 6 January 2011.

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