Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Africa needs fresh look at farming strategy

‘Africa needs fresh look at farming strategy’

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Does Africa need a new vision for development of its agriculture industry? Whether the answer to the question is ‘yes’ or ‘no’, one should dig deep for explanation to make it convincing.

Agriculture, though an age-old industry of the continent, has been practised in many regions to the present time in ways that cannot guarantee raised productivity to meet the needs of Africa’s bulging population.

Farming is a key component of African economies, providing up to 70 per cent of employment in countries such as Tanzania but climate change may reduce production by up to 25 per cent in the coming years “threatening both food security and potential economic gains.

Then, how can stakeholders work together effectively to drive sustainable growth in the agriculture sector and capture Africa’s considerable agricultural potential?

The just-ended 20th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, held 5-7 May in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, tried to tackle the issue but discussants did not make progress in view of the limited time they had.

‘I don’t think there is need for every country to have a new vision on agriculture,’ said Zimbabwe’s Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, wondering what African countries have been doing over their long-time visions.

In order to raise the industry’s profile, Mutambara suggested that regional economic blocs such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should start working on their respective regional vision so that agriculture takes prominence both in the people’s lives and the economy in general.

As Africa’s population increases, the continent faces a more urgent need to turn its agricultural policies into business outcomes, WEF participants said.

Explaining what held back agricultural development in Ethiopia while a considerable part of his people survive on charity donations, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi admitted that the persistent spectre of starvation in the
country was ‘a dilemma.’

Ethiopia suffered a massive famine that in 1975 led to the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime and yet again another famine and drought ravaged the country in 1984-85 under the dictatorial regime of Col. Mengistu Haile-Mariam.

Since coming to power after toppling Mengistu’s regime in 1991, Meles said his ‘government has been able to provide food assistance to keep people who cannot feed themselves alive, and to keep itself alive.’

Land ownership and availability is the most crucial factor in making agriculture an engine of development throughout Africa. In Ethiopia land was nationalised and distributed to tillers in 1985.

Land leases have not stopped farmers in Ethiopia from doubling food production every decade, but malnutrition and food insecurity stalk the population. ‘Over the last 18 years we have added at least 30 million mouths to feed. But we don’t have to restrain ourselves when we procreate,’ Meles said.

In the opinion of Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, host of this year’s WEF meeting, the biggest problem facing Africa’s agriculture is resource constraint.

WEF participants said farmers need help to process the food crops they grow and know that those crops are nutritious so that they can consume them.In addition, technology will make farming attractive to the youth who account for 60 per cent of the African population but are not interested in farming because it is a boring occupation.

Dar es Salaam – Pana 08/05/2010

By Anaclet Rwegayura PANA Correspondent


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