African leaders to invest in agric

KAMPALA. — Experts meeting in Uganda have urged African leaders to honour their pledges of investing 10 percent of their national budgets in agriculture if they are to pull millions of their citizens out of poverty.A new report issued by Oxfam, an international charity organization, on Thursday showed that although many countries pledged to increase their funding to 10 percent of their national budgets, many were backtracking.
Some, according to African Union (AU) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Josefa Sacko, argue that the percentage should be brought down because their economies are not big.

Back in 2003, African leaders at an AU summit in Maputo, Malawi, made the financial commitment and set up the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), the continent’s blueprint to sparking an
agricultural revolution.

More than 10 years since CAADP was launched, hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty has persisted. The Oxfam report, dubbed “Broken Promise! Financing African Small Holder Agriculture” blames that on low investment in the sector.

Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), argued that there is evidence that countries which have adopted and implemented the CAADP have registered over 6 percent growth, citing Ethiopia.

“The first adopters have been some of the fastest developing countries on this continent,” she told reporters.

“It is not about minerals but investing in agriculture.”

She argued that once the 10 percent expenditure on agriculture is achieved, the foundation which farmers can build on to revolutionise agriculture would be set.

Kalibata, who is also a former Rwandese minister of agriculture, a country hailed for better performance in agriculture, argued that there are also a host of other issues that the countries need to address.

She said the leaders at the highest and lowest levels need to design and implement policies that are appropriate to boosting agricultural development, citing issues of an appropriate fiscal policy, credit financing, functioning markets among others.

Once the commitments are put into action, agriculture would not be the same in Africa, she said.

The experts said it is appalling that Africa continues to lose billions of US dollars in food import and yet about 40 percent of what is produced on the continent goes to waste because of poor post-harvesthandling.

Figures by the African Development Bank show that Africa loses about 35 billion dollars to food imports. It warns that the figure is likely to increase to 110 billion dollars in 2025.

Kalibata argued that the money spent on food imports should instead be used to develop agriculture which would provide employment to the continent’s youthful population.

“We must take advantage of the youth bulge,”Kalibata said.

“We are exporting our jobs by importing food.”

World Bank figures show that youths compose 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed population.

Sacko said youths must be encouraged to engage in agriculture instead of making treacherous journeys to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea to seek opportunities.

“There is need to change the mindset of youths about agriculture. Agriculture can be run as a business. It is better to do agriculture than cross the Mediterranean,” Sacko said.

Estherine Fotabong, director of program implementation and coordination at the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), said countries should take advantage of agriculture being on top of the continent’s political agenda unlike years before.

Fotabong noted that for the first time, Africa churned out its development path in the agriculture sector without dictates from donors. She said donors have aligned their development aid to the CAADP.

African countries have no option but to adopt and implement the CAADP, she said

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