Africa 'must support small farmers'

2011-12-02 15:42
Durban - African governments should put their money where their mouths are when it comes to farming, says the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network.

Briefing journalists at Cop17 in Durban on Friday, network CEO Lindiwe Sibanda said with the 2003 Maputo Declaration, countries on the continent had agreed to devote 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture.

"Eight years later, only 10 African countries have done this. We are not investing where our mouth is."

Lack of access to finance and technology, among other things, meant maize yields among African small farmers were a fraction of what they should be.

"They could get 10 tons a hectare; they are achieving one to three tons a hectare," Sibanda said.

Governments were also "not putting in place the right policies to address the challenges".

Such lack of investment had "killed" the region’s agricultural research sector, leaving it "asset poor" when it came to knowledge.

Sibanda said Africa had the ability to feed itself. This had to be done through investment in small farmers, who were the engines of the continent’s food security.

"Smallholder agriculture is key... the hand hoe is still the tool of choice for most of our farmers."

If such farmers were adequately supported, 80% of the region’s food problems would be solved. Yet many householders had to survive on the equivalent of one US dollar a day.

"How can they manage to buy good seed and fertilizer?"

Calling for a uniquely African green revolution, Sibanda said high food prices could be brought down if the continent could feed itself.

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