African ministers seek radical overhaul of green revolution strategies

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ADDIS ABABA – African ministers have revived a continental call to overhaul agriculture policies to effectively fight hunger.

“The main contributor to food production would be African farmers.

“The African leaders would have to be careful about the local policies,’’ said Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, the Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).

The ministerial meeting to revise strategies driving green growth sought fresh thinking into an industry-driven agricultural sector.

The Agriculture and Trade Ministers met on Friday to prepare an agenda for the AU due next month in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

African countries have largely driven growth through agriculture, relying on an AU agricultural plan.

The Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CADAP) sought expanded financing of agriculture, irrigation and paving of roads to boost agriculture.

In January, an AU Summit held in Addis Ababa declared 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, setting the stage for the debate on the subject in Malabo.

“We have to first think of boosting our local food production before we can produce food for others,’’ Mayaki said.

Ethiopia’ State Minister of Agriculture Sileshi Getahun, said after years of intense investment in agriculture, his country was refocusing attention on commercialising small-scale farming.

“The agricultural strategy designed by the government will place major effort to support the intensification of marketable farm products both for domestic and export markets,’’ Sileshi told the Ministerial meeting.

Ethiopia believes commercialisation of the small-scale farming would boost sectorial growth, he added.

He added that “Ethiopia is also implenting plans to promote private investment in large commercial farms in regions with extensive land parcels.

“Agriculture has a lot of systemic bottlenecks,’’ Sileshi remarked, pointing at the effects of the decade Africa-wide plan, CAADAP on agriculture production.

“However much you try to increase productivity, the farmer produces for home consumption.

“We have to support the farmer to produce crops that have high prospects for value-addition,’’ Sileshi added.

Ethiopia is one of the countries roundly applauded for effectively implementing CAADAP, resulting into crop overproduction in most circumstances.

The overproduction mostly led to low prices for the produce in the marketplace.

Rhoda Tumisiime, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy, who played host to the Joint Ministerial meeting of agriculture, trade and urban , said policies were needed to solve the widespread problems.

“The CAADAP has propelled the implementation of agriculture production programmes at the country level and helped increase donor funding but we need to exploit the full potential,’’ Tumisiime told journalists.

CAADAP was first approved by the AU as part of NEPAD’s plan to radically transform the African economy in Durban in 2003.

Mayaki said the plan revived agricultural planning and attracted technical knowledge into the sector.

But marketing and storage of the produce has remained an uphill task.

“Durban in 2003 was a political revolution for agriculture. Malabo has to be a revolution for the future of agriculture,’’ Mayaki said.

According to NEPAD, agriculture production grew by an average of 10 per cent since the launch of CAADAP a decade ago compared to the two per cent growth rate posted by the continent before.

“We are ensuring continental policies are reflective of the needs of the African . We are now priorising the “use and make agriculture productive. We must end the use of the handhoe and embrace technology,’’ Tumisiime reiterated. (PANA/NAN)