Sunday, 30 September 2012

Agriculture: 2012 African Green Revolution Forum

African Green Revolution Forum 2012 inspires action to scale up partnerships in African agriculture - Though African governments are often blamed by donor countries for failure to achieve expected returns from investments in the agriculture sector, the underlying cause of this situation is the inability of farmers to absorb and make use of appropriate technologies. Participants of the 2012 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) rose from their seats late Friday convinced that the limited capacity of the predominantly smallholder farming communities is not an eternal feature.

In their view, more and better investments in research and development, coupled with training of more agricultural scientists and extension agents will help enhance the farmers’ capacity for Africa to achieve optimum agricultural transformation.

The Forum, held 26-28 October 2012 at a secluded mountain resort in the midst of coffee plantations of Ngurdoto, about 30 km east of Arusha city in northern Tanzania, was a record event, according to its organisers.

“This phenomenal event attracted over 1,000 delegates, though the expected number was 600, and we had to turn away 600 people who wanted to take part,” said Jane Karuku, co-chair of AGRA 2012 and president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Summing the general feeling of the delegates, Karuku said: “We have started a good ball of fire, but the mission is not yet accomplished. AGRF has developed very positively and the mission will be accomplished in some years to come.

“We are all motivated and we are in for the marathon,” she said, urging the participants, who included government ministers responsible for agriculture and related sectors, commercial farmers, African finance institutions, agricultural scientists, parliamentarians and global development advisers, to quickly identify their respective national target areas, lest they end up with good intentions without real action.

“The momentum is building up for everybody around the world to be part of the green revolution in Africa,” Karuku said.

Noting that there was a sense of shared goals among the delegates, she cautioned the gathering by invoking a Nigerian saying: ‘Fine words do not provide food.’

Concerted action is vital in every part of Africa to eliminate the need for food handouts from donors and eradicate poverty. The twin goals are achievable, provided the productivity and profitability of smallholder farms are enhanced through adoption of scientific production practices.

Countries which had good policies and regulatory measures, have seen investments in the agricultural sector rising, AGRA Chairman and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the meeting.

“We can’t increase food production at the speed and scale we need without mobilising the continent’s all-too-often neglected army of small-holders. Their needs and realising their potential must remain at heart of all our discussions,” he said.

According to Tanzanian Minister of Agriculture, Food and Cooperatives, Christopher Chiza, small farmers always feel sidelined in initiatives taken to improve agriculture.

“Agriculture being a business and small farmers being partners, we should think of them as farm managers. Unless the farmer understands the terms of partnership, the whole thing will flop,” said Chiza, underlining the need to put farmers at the centre of every action leading to sustained productivity and growth.

In practice, African countries tackle agriculture business differently, but there is need for all to comprehend issues of small farm businesses and develop a sense of trust between producers, crop buyers, input suppliers and policymakers in general.

Though every partner would claim to have the interests of smallholder farmers at heart, observers of the industry are of the opinion that lines should be correctly drawn to show who does what for the farmer.

There is still room for more dialogue between farmers and other stakeholders, including business enterprises, local and international private sector as well as governments in order to get rid of bottlenecks in policy interventions and partnerships for transforming agriculture in Africa.

For private sector partnerships with smallholder farmers to make a difference, they should be broadly based on the idea of helping the latter to become 'business-ready' by developing supply chains or directly linking them to markets.

The enthusiasm and shared optimism arising from the 2012 AGRF should stimulate the necessary action to scale up investments from the public and private sectors to further develop competitive agricultural systems in Africa.
Original Article Here

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